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, November 23, 2014

Electioneering on our Dime?

We all know that we are inundated with TV advertisements promoting the Harper “government” in the guise of telling citizens about their “plan” or some other “program” non of which actually tell the watcher anything that will help them actually access said programs. Does anyone actually go to that web page they promote? We now know how much they intend to spend (or more accurately how much they will admit to) and it is over $60 MILLION allotted thus far. This includes $10 million to advertise its annual “economic action plan,” $8 million to promote its “better jobs” program, $5 million promoting services to veterans and $5.5 million to combat illicit drug use and $7-million for the Canada 150 ad blitz Remember this is all for 'advertising' NOT programs or department bugets.
We also know that all departments other than the PMO have taken serious cuts in their annual budgets (and perhaps some of them did need to find “efficiencies”) but we now find out that the Harper regime has found a way to find even more money to try to buy off the voters in 2015. They simply have not authorized previously budgeted spending as it came up for final approval and then taken the “surplus” and stashed it back in their election goodies account.
Public Accounts documents reveal the Conservatives have held onto more than $7 billion in approved spending across a spectrum of departments. Since 2007-2008, the average amount that the government has underspent is 23 per cent of the allocated funds. Over the last three decades, the average was 2 per cent.

Public Accounts of Canada for 2013-2014 reveal for the third consecutive year, spending on military equipment, weapons systems and infrastructure declined significantly.
That spending is down roughly $1 billion from a high point of $3.8 billion in 2010-2011.
The documents show the government failed to spend $763 million of its allocated funding this past fiscal year for those types of large-scale initiatives even as Canada flexes its military muscle overseas.
Veterans groups are responding angrily to news that the federal department responsible for their care and benefits was unable to spend upwards of $1.1 billion of its budget over seven years. This while they had no trouble spending $4 million on ads last spring to promote what it's doing with veterans.
 Almost 14% of the money that Canada’s newly amalgamated Foreign Affairs Department planned to spend alleviating poverty in poor countries in the last year has been returned, unspent, to the Finance Department.
Foreign Affairs spent just shy of $792-million on aid to low-income countries in 2013-14, but had $917-million available, leaving more than $125-million in lapsed funding.
Canada’s national security agencies failed to spend hundreds of millions of dollars from their approved budgets last year even as some push for more cash in the wake of last month’s attack on Parliament Hill, according to a review by The Globe of recently released Public Accounts figures. 
It could be said that departments being frugal in spending our tax dollars is a good thing, but when many of the essential services that these departments are providing are being cut due to funding shortages and 'surpluses' are being spent on buying votes and barraging Canadians with useless self promoting advertising and telling us that the budget will be balanced just before the election then it must be questioned.
When the Liberals take power in the Fall I predict that they will find it is all smoke and mirrors, any 'surplus' will have been spent on shiny goodies and there will be a substantial deficit on the books. Its all part of the Harper Regimes plan to get reelected no matter what the cost, but if they are not elected to leave any new government with little room to undo all the damage done over the last ten years.
That may not have much to do with democracy but has a lot to do with the future of Canada and the return to a parliamentary democracy and a government that works FOR the people not for themselves.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Blind Obedience, the Tool of Tyrants

A guest post by Pamela Mac Neil

Here is how you're going to vote and here are your talking points”

On capital hill the above line is the kind of conversation, probably repeated many times, initiated by junior in the PMO's office, to Harpers backbenchers and various cabinet MP's. He/she may continue to say, the PM wants this bill passed at tomorrows question period and by the way, junior may add to the selected MP, usually a back bencher, the PM would also like you to ask this question in the House. Could the PM elaborate on "unconfirmed reports of a possible terrorist attack." There have been other scripted questions asked by various Conservative MP's that Harper has answered for the simple reason of manipulating the listening public to his agenda. This discourse usually precludes some policy or unconstitutional legislation he wants to enact. I'm sure that all departments come under Harpers thumb, but the two most troubling to me is Harpers Caucus and Cabinet. Harpers pursuit of power is not achieved, even if only some of the time, in isolation. His Caucus and Cabinet support that pursuit. They are his enablers. Caucus is supposed to hold the government to account, instead they follow orders abandoning their thinking and responsibility. The communications between the PMO and Harpers MP's has become a world of obedience and unity..

I've had a question that has bothered me for many years and I have answered it in part, but not in whole. The question is: Why do people in a free society obey? It's one thing for a person to obey in their personal life. It's another thing when people's obedience control the power of our democracy and in most cases, their decisions jeopardize the very freedom of our democracy, when these are the people who have been elected to protect our democracy. Why do MP's, some middle aged with alot of experience, obey a man like Harper. Part of the reason lies in the Evangelical Christian fundamentalists in Harpers caucus and cabinet. Anyone who's beliefs are completely lacking in any evidential proof and are accepted with unquestioning compliance, have shut down their minds and are in fact opposed to critical thinking. Being an Evangelical Christian does not require independent thought, but it does require obedience. What they call morals is simply blind obedience to commands. Obeying Harper is easy, because it's already a part of their identity. There are other reasons that MP's who are not religious or at the very least are not religious fundamentalists also obey, but how can any of these MP's not know that Harper is a dictatorial wanna be. This for me is what is so disturbing, that they do know that Harper is a tyrant and they still support his authoritarian agenda through their obedience. Why would free men and woman vote Canada into a dictatorship, ruled by a man whose total sense of worth is defined by how much power he has.

It is these MP's who in their support literally provide the power to Harper. They operate on one principle, obedience. They have given Harper the power to punish or reward them and our democracy is being destroyed so that MP's may have a chance to rise preferably to a cabinet post. They do not achieve success in their careers by merit, but rather by pull. Why does it not matter to these men and woman that they along with Harper, those we have entrusted with power, have perverted that power into tyranny. People who live under existing dictatorships obey out of fear, fear of imprisonment or death by the state. In a free society like Canada what are these MP's afraid of? What will happen to them if they choose to say no to Harper? Could it be that they are quite prepared to live in a dictatorship of there own making, under the rule of Harper? They cannot, not know, that with the present regime, that this is where Canada is heading. The power that these MP's are helping to create, if continued, will totally disempower the Canadian people. Power not supported by a nation is gotten through deceit, founded mainly in secrecy. Obedience to a political authority is voluntary slavery.

I watch from a distance because as a Canadian who is not a member of Stephen Harpers base even though I am one of the majority in Canada, I am not considered, nor am I included, along with the rest of the majority, as an integral part of the governmental process. Everything with Harper is at arms length, there are no close-up views. Regardless of the distance I have to remind myself that I am watching, almost daily, the govenment of the Canada, literally dismantling our democracy. I sometimes wish there was an alarm I could set off that would warn Canadians of the impending disaster. In the culture of Harpers government there is no negotiations, no discussions, only "grinding mediocrity" and conformity . It is a place where obedience is highly valued and bowed subservience is the position of the day. It is a place where thinking and confidence go to die. For the Canadian who is indifferent to this dictatorial power that is unfolding in our present government, I would suggest that you take a closer look at Harper and the people in his government, people who have targeted you as the enemy, so you will know how small, how mindless, how worthless, how insignifigant the people in this regime, those who you have sacrificed your freedom to, truly are, also you have not given away your freedom to a powerful, influential dynamic leader, but to a corner thug. Next year I will still be wondering ,in part anyway, why people in a free society obey, but I'd like to be able to add, but not the Canadian electorate in 2015. The Conservative MP's doctrine of blind obedience to Harper is a doctrine of despotism and has no place in Canadian society.

Below I have included several quotes from Pierre Trudeau purely for contrast.

"Let us overthrow the totems, break the taboo's, or better still, let us consider them cancelled. Coldly, let us be intelligent."

"I speak of a country where every person is free to fulfill himself or herself to the utmost, unhindered by the arbritrary actions of government."

"There is no such thing as a model or ideal Canadian. What would be more absurd than the concept of an "all Canadian" boy or girl? A society which emphasizes uniformity is one which creates intolerance and hate."

"The attainment of a just society is the cherished hope of civilized men."

Pamela Mac Neil's main interest is studying how  ideas from philosophy and history shape politics, particularly Canadian politics.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Stark Contrast.

I dont often comment upon the daily actions of politicians on this blog preferring to look at the broader picture of how their actions affect our democracy but one recent report realy got my attention in its stark contrast between a potential leader and the current one.
The way in which our 'leaders' interact with our local and national media, be they the press, television new outlets or simply citizen bloggers has much to do with democratic freedom and our need to know and understand what 'government' is doing on our behalf.

This item from Matt Guerin outlines the contrast.....
“As we know, Stephen Harper has such tight restrictions at his events, only card-carrying Conservatives with long party histories can get in.   No one except the most elite gets anywhere close to him.  And most definitely, uninvited guests or average Canadians get zero chance to interact with him, let alone speak to the crowd.   It's probably been almost 10 years since Harper had any meaningful and unscripted interactions with average Canadians who weren't pre-screened for party loyalty.”

He quotes from the CBC article
“Meanwhile, yesterday in Toronto at the Reference Library, Justin Trudeau was holding an event that was briefly interrupted by some protesters carrying a banner against the Energy East pipeline.  Trudeau may not share the protesters' position on the issue, but rather than ignore them and wait for RCMP to tackle them and remove them (to audience applause from Conservative party seals), Trudeau invited these Canadians to state their positions for all to hear and even called for the audience to applaud them.”

Now I can hear Harpers 'followers' saying that security concerns negate allowing 'protesters' to attend one of his public appearances and that may be true to a point. It does not however account for the accredited press being unable to ask any but 'approved' questions, and only 3 at that, on the rare occasions when such an appearance is not just a 'photo op' where no questions are permitted. It does not account for major announcements made with great fanfare (but no questions permitted) at staged and carefully choreographed 'events' or at some foreign event rather than in the House of Commons in front of his peers.

That many of these expensive staged 'events' are paid for out of the PMOs ever increasing 'advertizing' budget, i,e. Taxpayers money, adds further insult to his refusal to to be 'open and honest' with the press, the public, and even our elected representatives in the House. It is the outward symptom of a far greater malaise, one in which respect for any opinion but his own is missing, where parliamentary oversight is just an annoying itch to be ignored or smothered under bullshit.

It is in fact the outward signs of a want-to-be-dictator who insists upon total control over every piece of information issuing from not only the mouths of his herd of sheep but from all government departments, committees , researchers and diplomats. First control the message then control the people!

So I applaud Mr Trudeau in his effort to be open and available to the press and the public, it may lead to some difficult moments but the difference between hiding in the closet (both figuratively and literally) and standing proud before Canadian citizens is one to be encouraged and talked about.