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, March 29, 2015

Samara’s Democracy 360 Report

Samara, the Canadian Democracy Measurement folks have just released their latest report on the state of our democracy and its not good! This is no surprise to those of us who have been taking notice but with generally 40% or less giving any time to even discuss political issues with anybody (online or in person) it would seem that the majority don’t even care.

The following are a few extracts from their report “Samara’s Democracy 360, a report card on the state of Canada’s democracy” (260K PDF)

“Only 31% of Canadians believe politics affects them every day.
Only 37% give any time or resources to formal political activities between elections.
A surprising number (39%) say they haven’t had a single political conversation—online or offline—in a year-long period. With a federal voter turnout of 61%, Canada ranks in the bottom fifth among democracies, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development”

“Canadians gave MPs failing grades in all but one area: representing their parties’ views (57%). This percentage is notably higher than the grades they received for representing constituents (45%) or holding government to account (42%).they reserve their lowest marks for parties’ performance in reaching out to Canadians to hear their views (42%).
Only 40% of Canadians report that they trust MPs to do what is right and only 42% of Canadians place some trust in political parties.
Canadians give MPs and political parties failing grades on nearly all their responsibilities, ranging from reaching out to citizens to their work in Parliament. Overall, Canadians feel MPs do a better job representing the views of the party than
they do representing their constituents....... only 40% of Canadians report that they
trust their MPs to do what is right. Political parties fare no better: only 42% of Canadians report trusting them.”

“Even for a very accessible form of participation—talking about politics both online or in person—a large number of Canadians (39%) report never having had a single political conversation in a year-long period.
Particularly troublesome is that this declining turnout is driven almost entirely by young Canadians (aged 18 to 24), who vote at almost half the rate (39%) as Canadians aged 65 to 74 (75%)”

“MPs have the tools to speak to Canadians and they use them, but whether they do so successfully is more difficult to ascertain; Canadians’ low trust levels suggest there is room for improvement. For example, when social media is used more often to broadcast a message, rather than gather input or exchange views, it misses a chance to engage.”
In earlier interviews Samara says that “MPs also report being stymied by their own parties, which prevents them from doing the job they initially sought. It’s clear that in order to restore the trust of those who elect them, party leaders and MPs should work
towards more balanced relationships—relationships that enable MPs to better fulfill their jobs as representatives.”

And therein lays the biggest problem in my opinion, until such time as our 'representatives' can actually represent US not their party then democracy will continue its downward slide. In their report Samara puts it this way:-

Canada’s democracy is now like a slow leak when it rains. It’s easy to
ignore a pesky leak, but if left until the damage becomes severe or a
storm rages, the problem will become more difficult and expensive to
Perhaps more than difficult but all but impossible once the roof falls in, and particularly troubling with the Harper Regime constantly picking at the hole and increasing the leak!

If there is one thing we can take away from this report it is that getting the younger citizen to "get involoved", if only to the point of voting, is essential for the survival of our democracy. Unfortunatly it is these young folk who will reap the results of their disinterest in what remains of our country's democratic system.

If you have not done so already I urge you to read Samara's various reports going back several years, its scary stuff but their objective research and resulting conclusions paint a clear picture of where our democracy is headed. You may wish to view some of my earlier posts featuring their work here.

Also see The Democracy 360 Numbers, a companion to the report, describing all 23 indicators of a healthy representative democracy, offering a rich resource of data for media and any interested citizens.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Study in Tyranny (Part 1)

"Message Control and Vetting"

A guest post by Pamela Mac NeilCanadians for the first time in our history must confront the menacing truth, that our Prime Minister is a dictator and the Conservative Government for the most part are enabling him in turning Canada into a dictatorship, incremental or otherwise. There are some who are aware of Harpers authoritarian agenda and some who have even written and written well about it. What many Canadians tend to do though when talking about his desire for power and the extreme control that he executes over his government, the media and policy making , to name a few areas, is to judge his tight fisted control as , more of a personal governing style, a way in which he gets things done. We don't seem to see that his pursuit of power is all pervasive, implicit in everything that he does, the fundamental modus operandi that drives him. Power is his core value, central to his identity and the exercise of that power is what he lives for day in and day out.
Sometimes in our families, sometimes in our work or even in our everyday dealings in society most of us have had experience with dictatorial people. If someone grows up in a home with an authoritarian culture created by dictatorial parents they will be obedient rather than independent , fearful instead of confident, develop insecurity in the place of self-esteem and use their minds to survive the authoritarianism instead of for thinking and learning. They will learn how to survive, instead of learning how to live and if they go to a school with a dictatorial culture their growth is doubly threatened. Watching these people up close, seeing when and how they control others, we can also see how much damage they cause. So too with a democratic country. What happens in a country like Canada when citizens find they have voted a man, who becomes their Prime Minister and has now shown himself to be a dictator? What do we do? I think we must first understand how we got to this point by understanding how Harper has acquired his power.

In Lawrence Martins book "Harperland" one of the controls instituted across the board for everyone in Harpers government is message control and vetting. Martin goes on to explain " The new regime called for all public pronouncements by civil servants, diplomats, the military, cabinet members and Conservative MPs to be approved by PMO or the PCO." If a government official or a caucus member wanted to say something publicly, he or she would have to fill out a Message Event Proposal (MEP) and submit it to central command. This form has sections with such titles as Desired Headline, Strategic Objective, Desired Sound Bite and the like. It also has areas for supplying details on the speakers backdrop, the ideal event photograph and even the speakers wardrobe." Once submitted the MEP is studied by the PMO/PCO for approval or not and this is not done in a timely fashion. Under Harper, departments exercising such freedom as creating their own news releases and scheduling events for ministers is not allowed. No matter how minor the occurence or event, ALL government communications are to be approved by one of Harpers censors. This is how, as one example, the government scientists were muzzled. Controlling the message was implemented incrementally starting with the Prime Ministers events and then gradually expanded throughout the government.
By doing things incrementally, a Harper strategy, neither the media nor the public will notice and by the time when and if they do notice, the new policy of message control and vetting will have been in place and operational. This policy also applies to the media and to the controlling of the access-to-information requests a crucial tool made available to citizens in a democracy like Canada. Also, implicit in controlling the message is Harpers silencing of dissent. This is not just a management tool, put in place to make government communications more efficient. This control and vetting system gives the Prime Minister, PMO, PCO and government the power to decide what information, after it has been vetted, will be told to the Canadian public. This is the beginning of the breaching of one of our most important democratic freedoms, the right to know. Not to know a rewritten, censored, talking point, sanitized truth, but to know the truth period. Harper and Company have not set up this all inclusive government communication system so that at the end of the day they can tell Canadians the truth. They have set it up so that at the end of the day they can control the truth and than decide what they will tell us. Controlling the truth usually means hiding the truth and putting a partial or complete lie in its place. Studying how this communication policy is created, than implemented, more importantly, reveals a concrete example of how Harper and his cons go about acquiring and taking power.

Everyone knows of Harpers ignoring and sidelining of the main stream media the reason is said to be because he believes the media to be biased toward the liberals, but that's not the real reason he avoids talking to the press. Everything with Harper is calculated and choreographed, right down to the most minute detail. Press conferences are spontaneous, the questions can't be controlled. Answering questions spontaneously shows Canadians whether their Prime Minister can think on his feet or not. It's also much harder for Harper to lie when he has a group of journalist monitoring his answers, therefore press conferences are out and also sit down interviews except for the select few where all is choreographed beforehand including what questions can be asked. Harper is terrified of having to discuss the policies, trade deals or legislation that are created behind closed doors, in secrecy. All unplanned communications are strictly banned. So the cons have come up with another way to bypass the MSM and have Canadians focus on Harper, by creating an entire TV network called 24 Seven, devoted to Harpers life and paid for by Canadians. I held my nose and went to review the 24 Seven website so I would know what I was talking about. This is what I found. It opens by playing a few bars of "The Maple Leaf Forever", while showing Harper, door open , ready to climb into the backseat of an SUV. The site is comprised of videos about Harper's daily and/or weekly time spent in showing the various events that a PM attends and various announcements about legislation or policy, like a bill of victims rights, legislation about "life means life" where the accused once sentenced to life, will never get out of jail. There are various videos covering various topics that Harper and government are working on like free trade, law and order, taxation etc. In these videos Harper announces his new policies, programs, and legislation, but he keeps the announcement of them very limited no discussions allowed.
Then there are the videos that say? "Rhona Ambrose Minister of Health 24 questions," where the same woman who narrates all the videos asks the questions. Questions like: "What's your favorite gadget"? " What's the last movie you watched"?, "What's your favorite meal"? The same type of questions are repeated in other videos with other various cabinet ministers . I kid you not! Something I also noticed is that the word Exclusive is used on all video descriptions, including the intro, stating 24 Seven Exclusive as if other TV networks are competing for this information about Harper and 24 Seven was the only network that got the exclusive. This format though is exactly what Harper wants. Canadians have to go to him and he and his staff are controlling only what they want Canadians to see . The words and images are completely controlled by Harper and his staff. This is not communication this is manipulation! Manipulation is Harper and his regimes favorite form of communication. It is used almost every time they have something to tell the Canadian people. Harper and the PMO through information control and vetting, controls every facet of government including the press, it is the most important tool in Harpers arsenal of tools used for acquiring power. And what is Harper and his cons ultimate goal in their pursuit of power? Why taking away Canadians personal freedoms and turning Canada into a Fascist Dictatorship of course. And if he gets 4 more years, this time, he won't be taking incremental steps. He'll go straight for the prize running by leaps and bounds.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Careful what you vote for....

As with all of the Conservative Regimes legislation one must CAREFULLY read each word......

.......this House continues to support the Government?s decision to contribute Canadian military assets to the fight against lSlL, and terrorists aligned with lSlL, including air strike capability with authorisation to conduct airstrikes in lraq and Syria;
supports the Government's decision to extend the mission to a date not beyond March
30, 2016;
notes that the Government continues not to deploy troops in a ground combat role;
and offers its resolute and wholehearted support to the brave men and women of the
Canadian Armed Forces who stand on guard for all of us.

NOTE: Does NOT say they will not deploy ground troops in the future, just 'notes' that they are not right now!