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 20, 2014

Meaningful Changes or Lipstick on the Pig?

In the unholy rush to jam their Unfair Elections Act through before the majority of Canadians realise just how bad and self-serving piece of legislation it is the Harper regieme has asked the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee to “pre-study” it. In short order the Conservative-dominated committee has come back with a number of changes that it would like to see, remember this is just a “pre-study” not full hearings and that the House of Commons has yet to finish its initial study of this bill. The House Affairs Committee studying the bill will conduct one more day of hearings when MPs return from a two-week break April 28, before going into a rushed clause-by-clause review ending May 1. “Clause-by-clause review will begin Tuesday, April 29 with morning and evening meetings for three days until it wraps up May 1.” 'Rushed' hardly covers it, this is legislation that changes the very fundamental way in which elections are held and funded and should not be rushed or subject to any limitations of debate or public scrutiny. In May it will then (presumably) go to the senate for a full (rushed?) committee study.

There are those who feel that the changes that the senate so quickly proposed are simply “putting lipstick on the pig” or as Tim Harper of the Star puts it:- “What Conservatives senators have really done is give the government cover to suddenly shift course, drop their bullying demeanour and pretend to be reasonable and conciliatory then go ahead and pass a deeply flawed bill with nothing more than cosmetic tweaks.”
I cannot help but agree with his opinion that “That {this} adds to the odds that somehow the proposed amendments will be given more weight than they are worth, wrapping this saga up with a nice bow, as the Senate flexes its muscle and the Harper governments feigns flexibility.”

Indeed whilst the changes propose include 'that attestations of name and address be given by authorities such as homeless shelters, student and senior’s residences, removing a spending loophole that would allow parties to exclude money spent on certain fundraising activities, and permitting Elections Canada to continue with certain education programs' that hardly touches the edges of what is wrong with this bill. Are these amendments just a distraction from the core faults, as Elizabeth May of the Green Party and long advocate for democratic reform said she thinks there’s a willingness from the government to consider amendments to the bill’s provisions on vouching. She’s worried that if all the focus is placed there, though, the bill could still pass without amending other provisions concerning the appointment of partisan poll workers, the muzzling of Elections Canada, and a fundraising loophole for party election financing.
The list of things that are wrong with this bill is a very long list. If the vouching provisions have settled in the public imagination as what’s wrong with the bill, fixing those might make people think that the whole process is okay. It won’t be okay,” she said.

The issue of vouching has indeed received the majority of the public criticism but is perhaps the one issue where this bill could be challenged in the courts in that it would possibly disenfranchise some voters Pierre Lortie, who chaired a royal commission on electoral reform in the early ’90s, told the House Affairs Committee the bill would violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

That however is no guarantee that the bill will be changed in any meaningful way or that other antidemocratic and self-serving measures will not remain and be jammed though and become law. As Ms May puts it in an interview to the Hill Times “I think it sets a new record for a government bill that can’t find a single expert to support the government bill,” “[Conservatives] keep claiming they have everyday Canadians who support the bill. I haven’t seen any of those, either.”

As I said above and Ms May has indicated the vouching thing may well distract from some of the other terrible proposals in this bill but never the less she has, as always, clearly outlined this particular problem in her recent article for the Times Colonist.

The repetition of the 39 pieces of ID has become part of the disinformation that could lead to a loss of voter rights in the next election. A passport won’t work by itself because it does not include an address. A driver’s licence only works if it includes a street address and not a post office box, as is the case in many rural areas. If you have moved and your driver’s licence shows your previous address, you won’t have adequate ID. The requirement is for something with a photo ID and your address or just the right combination of two (or more) other identifiers, even without a photo ID.
Here’s a hypothetical. Imagine my daughter, currently a student in Halifax, went to the polling station bringing along six pieces of ID from the list — just to be on the safe side — her birth certificate, her student ID, her driver’s licence, her health card, her passport and her transcript. All are listed as acceptable on the Elections Canada website.
Could she vote? No. None of these forms of ID will include her current address. She does pay for utilities in her Halifax apartment. The utility bill is listed as an acceptable proof of address, in conjunction with her other ID. So, she runs back to her apartment, prints out her online utility bill and gets back to the polling station.
Can she vote now? No. The utility statement must be one mailed to the customer, not one printed out from online billing.”
As a rural resident whose wife worked on the 'revisions' for voters in the last elections I can say that rural addressing in particular is a major problem in this regard. It is improving with the use of 'fire numbers' in many municipality’s but the vulgarities of rural addressing DO create some unique problems where the address on you identification is expected to match that in the Elections Canada listings!

Wake up Canada, our democracy has become a shadow of its former self ever-since the Harper Regime received their false majority, it is now being threatened with a poison pill that would put it in further jeopardy. Speak up, only immense public pressure will stop these Oligarch from destroying our long internationally admired election oversight system and even that may not be enough to stop them!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Prerequisites for Democratic Legitimacy

Anita Vandenbeld author of an article called ‘Imposing Legitimacy: The Dilemma of International Democratic Development’ for LawNow magazine and former director of parliamentary affairs for Jacques Saada, the first minister of Democratic Reform in 2004, recently wrote an article on the legitimacy of bill C23. In it, in contrast to her previous article where she raised the question of how democratic institutions become legitimate in the eyes of a population, she now asks how do democratic institutions lose their legitimacy?

Here are some extracts, read the whole thing at Ipolitics:-

Basically, I argued there are five prerequisites for democratic legitimacy:
  • A legal or constitutional basis for authority;
  • Enforcement mechanisms;
  • Impartial decision-makers (financial independence, security of tenure);
  • Transparency in decision-making;
  • Mechanisms for giving or withholding consent.
Bill C-23, the so-called Fair Elections Act, risks undermining each of these prerequisites for democratic legitimacy. It risks stripping Elections Canada of its democratic legitimacy and endangering the future of free and fair elections in Canada. The legal basis for elections in Canada is the Canada Elections Act. Changes to this law must be taken very seriously and be based on the widest possible public and expert consultation. ........................
One of my responsibilities in Kosovo was to work with the Legislative Assembly to pass a law that would make independent institutions (like our Officers of Parliament) accountable to Parliament and not to the government. This is no mere formality — it affects everything a parliament does..............
Under Bill C-23, the enforcement arm of Elections Canada (Commissioner of Canada Elections) will be moved to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, who is appointed by the government and reports only indirectly to Parliament through the government. I brought a delegation to Canada from Kosovo in 2007 on a study visit to learn how Canadian institutions maintain their independence from government. Today, I would be embarrassed to bring them to Canada.
One of the more egregious aspects of Bill C-23 is that it actually forbids Elections Canada or the Chief Electoral Officer from communicating with the public. No more reports. No more voter education. No more communication about robocalls or any other investigations.
In every international best-practice regarding democracy, transparency is the number one criteria. It is hard to imagine how a country can maintain elections transparency when the body that runs elections is no longer allowed to speak to the people. Even former auditor general Sheila Fraser has criticized this aspect of the bill, saying: “Independent officers of Parliament — the government is now restricting what they can say? It’s just so inappropriate.”
I can honestly say that in all my years of working on democratic development with the United Nations, OSCE, NDI and other international organizations on five continents, I have not found another electoral commission that was prohibited by law from speaking to the public about elections or doing public awareness campaigns to encourage people to vote.
Anita Vandenbeld worked for a number of years internationally on democratic development with the United Nations Development Programme, the National Democratic Institute,the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Parliamentary Centre.

Exactly, changes to our electoral system that are forced through the legislative process and are not based upon based on the “widest possible public and expert consultation” or are contrary to the wishes of the majority of Canadians cannot be viewed as legitimate. This would make the results of the next election questionable no matter what party gains the right to govern, but certainly given the bias in this legislation to the current regime would make a win by them nothing short of a coup d'etat.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Winning at All Costs.

I think we are all sick of the win at all cost mentality of our political parties and their leaders, this mentality is not restricted to just the Harper Regime, although it is certainly most prevalent with that group of oligarchs, but can be seen with very few exceptions in all parties and both provincial and federal politics. I recently came across a piece from Scott, a recent graduate of the University of Saskatchewan with a degree in Political Studies who puts it like this:-

"Almost all of the political parties in today's system seem to be more concerned with winning an election than with improving our country. It's the reason why in every leadership race, almost every candidate is always introduced as the "Next Prime Minister/Premier/whatever." Yes, if you win you get to implement your policies. But at the same time, for many, it seems like winning is enough.

And when we become so focused on just winning for the sake of winning, or worse winning for the sake of making sure the other team doesn't, we put our blinders on. We can see this in the culture of corruption that has basically claimed the backrooms of the Conservative Party. From robocalls from the CIMS database, to robocalls about Irwin Cotler, to robocalls in Saskatchewan, to Eve Adams using her position to campaign for a nomination in a new riding; we see people making dodgy, and in many cases illegal, decisions for the sake of winning.

If we want to tackle election fraud and fair elections, the first place to look isn't to the voter: It's to the parties. We need to ensure that parties are following the laws that are written down for them; and that even a single rogue campaign worker is punished for daring to step outside those bounds. We need to stop letting parties find 'gray zones' in the laws, and instead insist that all parties remain on the fair footing that we're supposed to offer.

Who cares if it's not technically illegal or only against the spirit, but not the word, of the law? Parties, it seems, will take the shortcuts and moral lowroad to achieve the victory of winning it would seem. Democracy is supposed to foster policy discussion and alternative visions for our country; that is not what we've been getting.”

Exactly, “If we want to tackle election fraud and fair elections, the first place to look isn't to the voter: It's to the parties.”, and yet the Unfair Elections Act completely ignores this truth. In fact it actually goes in the opposite direction by removing any investigative powers from Elections Canada and failing to follow the recommendations of the Chief Electoral Officer to enforce testimony in the case of wrongdoing. Which given that said regime has been busy withholding information on the robocall issue for many months now would seem to be an effort to shut down said efforts to find out the truth. And now it would seem they have succeeded :-

In light of the government’s announcement in the fall that it would introduce comprehensive legislative reform, Elections Canada decided to postpone the general enforcement report until after the next general election,” she said. “This was necessary not only to focus our attention and resources on the announced reform, but also of the difficulty of engaging stakeholders simultaneously on a parallel initiative.” It would seem that Elections Canada is already less than “independent' even before the proposed changes and already under the Harper Regimes control!

Then comes the issue of buying an election by those with deeper pockets than the average voter and by parties who cater to corporate sponsors to raise money to further the agenda of the rich and powerful rather than the wishes of the average citizen. On this issue Scott says this:-

Democracy is a nice idea in theory, a sentiment that is usually applied to communism, but in practice it doesn't always work. This is especially true when you consider the big money that goes into politics.

Democracy cannot work when money plays a more important role than the actual voice of the people. That is not a democracy, it is an oligarchy. Which is why if we ever want a fair election, we must support 100% public funded elections.

There is a question as to whether or not we should even allow parties to raise money at all; though, I do realize that parties do rely on paid employees as well as volunteers. It's a tricky balance, but not impossible to achieve. So, while I'm not saying we should completely stop parties from fundraising, we should explore avenues to restrict what they can use raised funds for. Office and staff expenses, yes. Running a multi-million dollar ad campaign, no.”

Whilst I dont agree with Scott that elections should be totally publicly funded (I think it is simply not possible to institute and monitor such a system) I do think that the limits of what a party or individual can raise during an election should be reduced NOT increased as proposed in the 'lets see how much more we can cheat elections act'. Not only does the increase make the playing field even more tilted towards the affluent voter but some of the changes, in particular that of exempting certain previous detonators contributions from being counted, are totally impossible to monitor and ensure that the rules are followed. As with the elimination of the 'per vote subsidy' this is directly aimed at lesser parties who if they had the resources to put their position in front of the public in the same manner as the big boys would undoubtedly gain a huge upswing in support.

The former auditor general (Sheila Fraser) is also troubled by a provision that would allow political parties to exempt from their campaign spending limits any money spent to raise funds from people who’ve donated at least $20 over the previous five years. She said that amounts to a giant loophole that would allow well-established parties to spend untold millions more during campaigns but would be “unfair” to new parties, which have no history of past donors.
Moreover, she questioned how pitches for donations can be distinguished from pitches for support and how Elections Canada could monitor and verify that the exemption was not being abused, given that the bill does not give the agency the power to audit party books or demand to see their records, invoices or receipts – a power successive chief electoral officers have long sought.”
The other thing that the influence of money in our democratic process cannot be ignored is the ongoing television, and now radio, ads taken out by the Harper Regime, not to tell us anything about what they are doing (they use taxpayers money for that, plugging their non existent 'Action Plan' ) but to make personal attacks upon another parties leader. That they have been doing this for months and over a year ahead of any election shows exactly how devoid of any morals or any respect for democracy they are. Without masses of influx of cash from the rich this sickening reflection of the win at all costs and money can buy anything mindset would not be possible.

As Scott says “Democracy cannot work when money plays a more important role than the actual voice of the people.”

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Citizens Protest Unfair Election Act

Many of my reader will be aware that last Tuesday a number of citizens gathered in front of Conservative MP's Offices across the country to show their opposition to the Unfair Elections Act that is being railroaded through the legislative process by the Harper Regime. One such non partisan gathering sponsored by LeadNow took place in front of my local MP's office, that of Larry Miller, where folks from several opposition parties and local non partisan groups spoke to the crowd. Kimberly Love of the Liberals and Karen Gventer of the NDP spoke of the injustices - the removal of voting rights ( a right guaranteed by our constitution) of some one hundred thousand Canadians who require the vouching system and removing the power of oversight of Elections Canada. Karen touched upon our electoral system and the need to change it.
Scott Maxted of the Greens focused upon what needs to happen in Canada for Canadians to push out the Conservative destruction machine - electoral reform and the need to put partisanship aside. He spoke of the possible correlation found between the removal of the Per-Vote Subsidy and the task of promoting voting. With the removal of the subsidy and the low youth vote for the Conservative Party is there a possible correlation between slowing a party's progress down with the extra costs incurred with said promotions and the costs of running a strong campaign?

The local media reported upon this rally and contacted Mr Miller, who was not present but in Ottawa, and he is quoted as saying "Most people in this day and age should have ID, and it doesn't have to be photo ID, there are 39 different pieces of things that you can use and I don't think it is a stretch for anybody to come up with a combination that will work."
That is of course the party line which he is obliged to spout however the most telling part of that comment is “Most people”, Exactly - Most People NOT All People!
He went on to say "If anyone has legitimate suggestions on how to make the bill better I will personally deliver them to the minister, it is as simple as that,". Just about the same time as he said this his Conservative colleagues on the committee charged with studying this deeply flawed legislation blocked an NDP motion to allow Green, Bloc Quebecois, and independent MPs the right to formally examine and speak to the bill at the committee stage. Given that action, the closure of debate when first presented, the refusal thus far to even consider any amendments, and the long history of rejecting any opinions other than their own, this statement from Mr Miller is meaningless!

As I have said before not only is the bill 'flawed' (read totally unacceptable as written) but the process is also unacceptable. How can you substantially change the laws governing election processes without broad consensus and open discussion and call it a democratic process. If the both electorate and the opposition MP's (who represent over 60% the population) have no faith in it and does not believe it it open and fair then democracy is doomed. A recent poll reinforced this in that it found that “Seventy per cent of respondents said that the act’s elimination of Elections Canada’s ability to publicly report on voter complaints it receives, including about fraudulent calls, makes them less supportive of the legislation. When asked about the Unfair Elections Act’s elimination of the voucher system used by over 100,000 people, 61% said it made them less supportive of the bill.”

Much more startling to me however was this “The survey found that only 27% of Canadians are familiar with the act”, the ignorance of the electorate on this issue is not really surprising in that it is hardly front page news on a daily basis and has only just recently seen much mention in national newscasts. It is however very worrying in that the only way to stop or change this legislation is through public pressure on the Harper Regime and its henchmen, you know those folks who were elected to represent US in the House of Commons NOT the oligarchs who designed this legislation to feather their own nest.

I can only once again repeat Ed Broadbent's words “Past governments have avoided turning democratic process into a tool for one party’s advantage. Changes in electoral processes were always based on all-party consensus. That Harper derides such all-party consensus is, sadly, no surprise. That his robotic backbench will unquestioningly obey is not news either. Except now, the victims of his disregard for debate aren’t only the people we elect. It’s those doing the electing as well.”

Oh, and just in case you thought that there has been any change in the regimes Modus operandi you should be aware that both the misnaming of whos government it is and the Orwellian naming of bills is in full force with the naming of the 359 page budget bill just introduced. It not only once again covers a myriad on non budget items but is named the “Harper Government Creating Jobs & Growth While Returning to Balanced Budgets With Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1.”.
No really, I am not kidding! I had to check the government site to make sure it was not a joke!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Electoral Integrity of Act Questioned.

When 19 international Scholars from six democracy’s across the world add their voice to the over 150 Canadian scholars and almost universal condemnation of the Harper Regime's attempt to introduce partisan bias into our election rules and to reduce the powers of the world respected Elections Canada then you know something is very wrong with the proposed legislation.
Here is their open letter which clearly sets out SOME of the problems with this Bill:-

We, the undersigned, international scholars and political scientists, are concerned that Canada’s international reputation as one of the world’s guardians of democracy and human rights is threatened by passage of the proposed Fair Elections Act.
We believe that this Act would prove [to] be deeply damaging for electoral integrity within Canada, as well as providing an example which, if emulated elsewhere, may potentially harm international standards of electoral rights around the world.
In particular, the governing party in Canada has proposed a set of wide-ranging changes, which if enacted, would, we believe, undermine the integrity of the Canadian electoral process, diminish the effectiveness of Elections Canada, reduce voting rights, expand the role of money in politics, and foster partisan bias in election administration.
The bill seeks to rewrite many major laws and regulations governing elections in Canada. These major changes would reduce electoral integrity, as follows:

Elections Canada: The proposed Act significantly diminishes the effectiveness of Elections Canada, a non-partisan agency, in the fair administration of elections and the investigation of electoral infractions by:
· Severely limiting the ability of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) to communicate with the public, thereby preventing the CEO from encouraging voting and civic participation, and publishing research reports
· Removing the enforcement arm of the agency, the Commissioner of Elections, from Elections Canada, and placing it in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), a government department
· Prohibiting the Commissioner from communicating with the public about the details of any investigation
· Preventing any details about the Commissioner’s investigations from being included in the DPP’s annual report on the Commissioner’s activities – a report that the DPP provides to the Attorney General (AG), and which the AG forwards to Parliament
· Failing to provide the Commissioner with the power to compel witness testimony (a significant obstacle in a recent investigation of electoral fraud)

Right to Vote: The proposed Act diminishes the ability of citizens to vote in elections by:
· Prohibiting the use of vouching to establish a citizen’s eligibility to vote
· Prohibiting the use of Voter Information Cards to establish a citizen’s identity or residency
The prohibition against vouching is ostensibly to reduce voter fraud yet there is no evidence, as affirmed by the Neufeld Report on Compliance Review, that vouching results in voter fraud. These changes to the voter eligibility rules will disproportionately impact seniors, students, the economically disadvantaged, and First Nations citizens, leading to an estimated disenfranchisement of over 120,000 citizens.

Money in Politics: The proposed Act expands the role of money in elections by:
· Exempting “fundraising expenses” from the spending limits for political parties, thereby creating a potential loophole and weakening enforcement
· Failing to require political parties to provide supporting documentation for their expenses, even though the parties are reimbursed over $30 million after every election
· Increasing the caps on individual donations from $1200 to $1500 per calendar year
· Increasing the caps on candidates’ contributions to their own campaigns from $1200 to $5000 per election for candidates and $25,000 per election for leadership contestants
· Creating a gap between the allowable campaign contributions of ordinary citizens and the contributions of candidates to their own campaigns, and thus increasing the influence of personal wealth in elections

Partisan Bias: The proposed Act fosters partisan bias and politicization by:
· Enabling the winning political party to recommend names for poll supervisors, thereby politicizing the electoral process and introducing the possibility of partisan bias
· By exempting “fundraising expenses” (communications with electors who have previously donated over $20 to a party) from “campaign spending,” creating a bias in favour of parties with longer lists of donors above this threshold – currently, the governing party

The substance of the Fair Elections Act raises significant concerns with respect to the future of electoral integrity in Canada. The process by which the proposed Act is being rushed into law in Parliament has also sparked considerable concern. The governing political party has used its majority power to cut off debate and discussion in an effort to enact the bill as soon as possible. By contrast, the conventional approach to reforming the electoral apparatus in Canada has always involved widespread consultation with Elections Canada, the opposition parties and the citizens at large, as well as with the international community.
In conclusion, we, the undersigned, ask that the proposed legislation should be revised so that contests in Canada continue to meet the highest international standards of electoral integrity.
Signed by 19 International Scholars.

Whilst the issue of 'vouching' has received a great deal of attention is is far from the only troubling issue, and perhaps not the most significant. Given the impact 'money' has upon our electoral process and the previous attempts to misdirect voters and the difficulty Elections Canada has had in finding and charging the culprits some of the other issues raised above are at least as important. This Bill cannot be allowed to pass!

LeadNow is working with key partners to coordinate a national day of action on Tuesday, March 25th in opposition to this proposed legislation, at Conservative MP offices and support locations, to rally the country and show Conservative MPs that people will stand up to defend our democracy. Do Join them.
Locally there will be a rally in front of MP Larry Miller’s office, 1131 2nd Avenue East, Owen Sound, N4K 2J1 at 12 noon on Tuesday.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Undemocratic Democratic Reform

Are changes to an electoral system in a democracy valid if they are brought in by a less than democratic process, are they in fact valid if the very 'independent' body charged with overseeing said electoral system is excluded from the process? Are they valid if recommendations from said body are ignored, debate within our parliamentary system on such measures is curtailed, concerns by parliamentarians and democracy experts across a broad range of political and non partisan stripes fall upon deaf ears? Are they in fact actually antidemocratic if they are not generally accepted by those whos right to select their government representative in a free and unbiased system is impacted?

Irregardless of the content of the (Un) Fair Elections Act the process to make such changes MUST be seen to be an open and unbiased process with all views carefully taken into account and partisan issues set aside if it has any chance of being anything more than a cynical attempt by a regime already proven to have little regard for democracy, either at the election booth or withing parliament, to further diminish our ability to elect a government that reflect our wishes.

Electoral or parliamentary reform by decree is NOT democratic reform, it is the first step towards dictatorship. If the population does not trust the electoral process or is prevented from participating the our democracy is on the very edge of that which Mr Harper is so busy condemning in Crimea.

Thats the process, and that is troubling enough, but the content is almost universally condemned as unacceptable. Not only that but it is so far reaching and contains so many changes to the electoral process, the funding thereof and Elections Canada’s ability to oversee the election process that few, if any, really know what the full impact of passing this bill would mean. Here are SOME of the more well known issues raised thus far:-

Some of biggest problems identified by Elections Canada:
– The Fair Elections Act allows the incumbent party in each riding to appoint the central poll supervisors, a key job at each polling place. This may give rise to the impression that their decisions are partisan, whether they are or not. Elections Canada wants to appoint central poll supervisors and other election officials rather than letting parties put their people in.
– The act will stop the use of voter information cards (VICs) as identification at the polls. Elections Canada says for Canadians who don’t have ID showing their address — including many aboriginals, students and seniors — the VICs provided a simple way to show where they live.
– The act will require Elections Canada to give “bingo cards” — lists of who have voted — to the political parties after each election, which Elections Canada warns has privacy implications. Currently, officials give the cards to party scrutineers to assist in their get-out-the-vote effort but it’s not possible for parties to assemble a national database of who has voted.
– The new robocall registry that the act will require be established will not require records to be kept of what numbers were called, “which is key information for investigations,” according to Elections Canada.
– The act provides an exemption from election spending limits for money spent on telephone fundraising from former donors, which Elections Canada warns sets up a big loophole that political parties can exploit, since the agency will have no way of knowing if the parties’ reporting is accurate.
– The act allows for compliance audits of the parties’ books, but does not allow Elections Canada to produce documents proving that its financial statements are on the up and  up.
– The act requires that commissioner, who supervises investigations, keep confidential information about investigations. This means that nobody will have the authority to report to Canadians on election crime, even to reassure voters that fraud did not take place.
– The act does not do several things Elections Canada had requested — extend privacy protection to political parties, and provide investigators with the power to compel testimony from witnesses to election crime.

Other issues

Electoral Education
The Chief Electoral office may no longer be given the mandate to promote and educate our electoral process to Canadians.
The hiring of staff on the part of the Chief Electoral Officer will have to go through the treasury board.
Campaign Funding
The amount election candidates would be able donate to their own campaign (to $5,000 from $1,200), and the amount party leadership candidates would be able to donate to their own race (to $25,000 from $1,200).”
It would also allow parties to exclude money spent during campaigns to solicit funds from donors who have contributed $20 or more to them at any point over the previous five years.
Failure to consult

The proposed legislation was prepared without any consultation with our Chief Electoral Officer and in fact ignore sever of his earlier recommendations. Debate has already been limited in the House and proposals to consult with Canadians across the country have been rejected. Several observers including some influential Conservatives and former Leaders have said that electoral reform must have broad support in order to be legitimate.

Interpretation of rules
16.1 (1) The Chief Electoral Officer shall,in accordance with this section, issue guidelines
and interpretation notes on the application of this Act to registered parties, etc etc
(8) The guidelines and interpretation notes are issued for information purposes only. They are not binding on registered parties, etc etc

Some of the Spin
In an attempt to defuse the impact of facts, Pierre Poilievre went on CPAC to "correct the explicit factual error in the CEO's testimony" and again read the sentence from the report that he's quoted so many times he probably hears it in his sleep.  "The Supreme Court made it clear that such errors in other circumstances could contribute to a court overturning an election." 

Now it seems that Mr Neufeld himself, would like to correct Mr. Polilievre's deliberate SELECTIVE quoting.  According to Neufeld at no point in his report did he suggest that any of the irregulatities sited in his report were evidence of fraud. The author of a report cited repeatedly to justify cracking down on potential voter fraud says the Harper government is misrepresenting his report and ignoring his recommendations. Indeed, Harry Neufeld says there's not a shred of evidence that there have been more than "a handful" of cases of deliberate voter fraud in either federal or provincial elections.

His recommendations (never quoted by Poilievre )
  • voter information cards should be more widely allowed as valid pieces of i.d.
  • vouching process and paperwork should be simplified
  • elections officials better trained

And finally some of the reaction by those far more qualified to speak to the matter than I:-

Ed Broadbent
Past governments have avoided turning democratic process into a tool for one party’s advantage. Changes in electoral processes were always based on all-party consensus.
That Harper derides such all-party consensus is, sadly, no surprise. That his robotic backbench will unquestioningly obey is not news either. Except now, the victims of his disregard for debate aren’t only the people we elect. It’s those doing the electing as well.

A letter signed by over 150 professors at Canadian universities who teach and conduct research on the principles and practices of constitutional democracies, including 15 past presidents of the Canadian Political Science Association.
We, the undersigned — professors at Canadian universities who study the principles and institutions of constitutional democracy — believe that the Fair Elections Act (Bill C-23), if passed, would damage the institution at the heart of our country’s democracy: voting in federal elections.
We urge the Government to heed calls for wider consultation in vetting this Bill. While we agree that our electoral system needs some reforms, this Bill contains proposals that would seriously damage the fairness and transparency of federal elections and diminish Canadians’ political participation.
Beyond our specific concerns about the Bill’s provisions (see below), we are alarmed at the lack of due process in drafting the Bill and in rushing it through Parliament. We see no justification for introducing legislation of such pivotal importance to our democracy without significant consultation with Elections Canada, opposition parties, and the public at large.

Preston Manning
Manning said he wants to see the federal government's Fair Elections Act legislation amended to "strengthen, rather than reducing, the role of Elections Canada and the chief electoral officer with respect to promotional and educational activities designed to increase voter participation in Canada’s elections."

We cannot let the Conservative regime continue with their destruction of our parliamentary democracy by allowing them to force through legislation that disenfranchises some segments of our society, enables the rich to have an increased influence upon election activities and totally guts the ability of Elections Canada to encourage citizens to participate in this fundamental democratic process.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Harpers Orwellian Regime

Arising from George Orwells novel Nineteen Eighty-Four published in 1949 the adjective Orwellian describes a totalitarian dystopia characterised by government control and subjugation of the people. Orwell's invented language, Newspeak, satirises hypocrisy and evasion by the state: for example,the Ministry of Truth oversees propaganda and historical revisionism. When writing this Orwell believed that British democracy as it existed before 1939 would not survive the war, the question being "Would it end via Fascist coup d'état (from above) or via Socialist revolution (from below). Many Canadians are starting to wonder the same here and now, we hope that like Orwell we will be proved wrong however some of the parallels between what is happening now in Canada under the Harper Regime and the Regime as depicted in his novel are startling.

Lets start with some of the Orwellian language coming from these spin artists;

There is Bill C-10, An Act to Enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism, which hiked penalties for pot possession and funded more prison construction;
The Protect Children from Internet Predators Act, which forces internet service providers to hand over user names to police without a warrant;
The Navigable Waters Protection Act which removed protection from thousands of rivers and exempted certain projects from such protection on those remaining.
The Citizen’s Arrest and Self-Defence Act which opens the door to a potentially greater role for private security forces instead of the police.

And more recently The Fair Elections Act which, among other things, seeks to make it 'fair' for the more affluent partys to spend more money without restrictions in order to brainwash the electorate to their point of view.

Even the Budget bill had little to do with budgetary considerations but more to do with ideology as Allen Greig points out.
It announced that environmental assessments were to be “streamlined” and that the final arbitration power of independent regulators was to be curtailed and possibly overridden by so-called “accountable” elected officials. Given the priority this government places on economic, and especially resource development, this was not necessarily unpredictable. These amendments was bundled in with 68 other laws into one Budget Bill, so that – using the power of majority government – no single item could be opposed or revoked.

When then the specific cuts started to roll out, an alarming trend began to take shape.
  • At Stats Canada – ½ (not 6%, but 50%) of employees were warned that their jobs were at risk.
  • 20% of the workforce at the Library and Archives of Canada were put on notice.
  • CBC was told that it could live with a 10% reduction in their budgetary allocation.
  • 30% of the operating budget of Parks Canada was cut, eliminating 638 positions; 70% of whom would be scientists and social scientists.
  • The National Roundtable on the Environment, the First Nations Statistical Institute, the National Council on Welfare and the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Science were cut.
  • The Experimental Lakes Area was shut down. The northernmost lab in Eureka, Nunavut awaits the same fate.
  • The unit in charge of monitoring emissions from power plants, furnaces, boiler and other sources is to be abolished.
  • And against the advice of 625 fisheries scientists and four former federal Fisheries Ministers – saying it is scientifically impossible to do — regulatory oversight of the fisheries was limited to stock that are of “human value”.
  • On the other side of the ledger however, the Canada Revenue Agency received an $8 million increase in its budget so that it had more resources available to investigate the political activity of not-for-profit and charitable organizations.
(Please note that the above from Mr Greig has been condensed somewhat please see the original article for the full text)

I believe that Harper and his cabal do think that they are doing the right thing and that the end justifies the means but that makes it even scarier than if they were deliberately trying to destroy our democracy.

Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”
― George Orwell in 1984

We now have the PMO issuing weekly propaganda videos and our MSM reduced to only asking 'approved' questions on the rare occasions that they have access to our PM.

Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.”
― George Orwell

Those working within government have been silenced with threats of dismissal or other sanctions and are now being asked to sign documents ensuring their silence even after they leave or are dismissed.

Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
― George Orwell

Canadian Museum of Civilization has been rebranded the Canadian Museum of History and is just one element in the Conservatives’ wider strategy for changing the way Canadians perceive their past, they have launched a 'review' of Canadian history. Or more correctly a review of what history government institutions will be funded to reveal to us!

The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
― George Orwell

We have seen that the Harper Regime will do anything to get and retain power, prorogue parliament to avoid a confidence vote, ignore electoral laws governing robocalls and funding limits, cut off per vote funding that levels the playing field slightly for smaller and developing partys.

We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.”
― George Orwell in 1984

Various organizations and individuals who have spoken out against some of the actions of the Harper Regime, particularly those who are concerned with the future of our natural environment have been labelled 'enemies of the state'.

In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
― George Orwell

In short we are being told black is white, up is down, the oil sands will be Canada's saviour, the Cons are governing democratically and the sun shines out of Harpers arse. All of these things are equally true.

Perhaps given the closing of research librarys and the destruction of many of the books and papers therein we should be rereading Ray Bradburys 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451 . The novel presents a future American society where books are outlawed and "firemen" burn any that are found. The people in this society do not read books, enjoy nature, spend time by themselves, think independently, or have meaningful conversations. Instead, they drive very fast, watch excessive amounts of television on wall-size sets, and listen to the radio on “Seashell Radio” sets attached to their ears.
In a 1956 radio interview,Bradbury stated that he wrote Fahrenheit 451 because of his concerns at the time about censorship and the threat of book burning in the United States.

I will leave you with this final thought from George Orwell
To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”
― George Orwell