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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Independent Caucus's for the Senate

The Senate has just voted for a major shake-up of how members of the Red Chamber align themselves by allowing nine or more members to form a caucus, a substantial break from tradition that has historically seen the place organized along party lines.
A small but important step forward in my view, I continue to believe that we need this body to examine and offer revisions upon legislation proposed by the government (particularly majority governments) and any move to give more resources to “independents” and move away from partisan decisions is a good thing IMHO.

The motion directs the Senate rules committee to now formalize the changes, and then requests the internal economy committee — which effectively governs the chamber and adjudicates complaints — to draw-up budgets for these prospective new caucuses, to help hire staff for "secretariats" and pursue research projects. The motion was adopted by a voice vote, so it is not clear how much support it had from the existing parties.
Now if only “independent” and minority caucus's in the House of Commons could get equal access to resources for their MP's

Because he faced a significant list of vacancies when he assumed office, Trudeau has been able to appoint a large number of new senators in a relatively short time through a "merit-based" application process. In the last year alone, 27 senators have been appointed and a further 11 senators will be appointed by the year's end (or 38 out of a total 105 senators).
Virtually all of these new appointees have joined together with a handful of other senators — who left the Liberal or Conservative caucuses for various reasons — to create the Independent Senators Group (ISG) led by Alberta Senator Elaine McCoy, who acts as its leader or "convenor." (The caucus definition change also formally brings the ISG under the Senate's rules.)
I note that Senator Elaine McCoy has been a self identified “independent” for many years, long before Trudeau started appointing “non partisan” senators.

Wells said while the new senators were appointed as Independents, they have since realized it is beneficial to caucus together to share money, staff and other resources.
I really hope this does not encourage the groups to morf into partisan voting blocks but simply encourages independent thinkers to cooperate and find consensus on matters of particular interest to them.

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Preferential Ballot Recommended for New Brunswick

An independent commission on electoral reform in New Brunswick is recommending the province adopt a preferential ballot for choosing members of the legislature. The commission's report, released Friday morning, says that would lead to a legislature that is more representative of what voters want.

A preferential ballot "is a modest, pragmatic choice for reform that does not create its own series of problems, as a wholesale change to another electoral system would," "It also keeps things simple and easy, so that everyone can understand how to vote and that their vote really counts." the report says.
A modest, pragmatic choice for reform that was completely rejected by the recent federal committee studying Electoral Reform, however New Brunwickers should not expect a new voting system to be in place anytime soon as the dreaded Referendum word is once again being thrown about, not by the commission but by the government.

“Any government would have to have a clear mandate from the people of New Brunswick to make that type of change. A mandate could be seeked through a referendum, and it could be seeked through a political party’s platform,” Gallant said Friday.
Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs agrees. “The Official Opposition believes that any changes to our democracy must be decided democratically through a referendum or ballot question. Democratic reform has to be democratic,” he said.
The commission also recommended lowering the voting age and the age limit for being a candidate from 18 years to 16 years.

It says people who get involved in politics at a young age are more likely to stay involved, and it rejects the idea that 16–year–olds are too young to vote. "The commission was encouraged by the level of maturity and intelligence displayed by the young New Brunswickers with whom it met," the report says. But because it wants young voters to stay in school, the report says anyone 16 or older but younger than 18 wanting to run for office would have to have a valid high school diploma.
Other recommendations include:
  • Lowering the maximum donation of money to a political party by a person, union or business from the current $6,000.
  • Phasing out donations from unions and businesses after the 2018 election.
  • Creating a temporary financial incentive for political parties that nominate more women candidates.
  • Allowing non–citizens who are permanent residents to vote in provincial and municipal elections.
  • Teaching more about government, politics and voting in the school system.
  • Bringing back a law that requires parties to provide a costing of their election promises.
  • Moving the fixed date for provincial elections from the fourth Monday in September to the third Monday in October. That would avoid university and college students new to the province being excluded by a rule that says a voter must live here for 40 days before they can vote.

The entire committee was in favour of e-voting, but said government should not proceed with online voting at this time due to security, confidentiality and privacy concerns.

“I think it would be irresponsible on our part to recommend moving in that direction until such time as we have assurances that we can really have a safe, secure system that ensures ballot secrecy. If we don’t have those assurances we don’t believe the time is right,” committee member Alcorn said.
I wish then luck with this “modest, pragmatic choice for reform”, at least they have a firm understandable choice to put on a referendum ballot should they choose to do that!

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Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Twit and the Future of Democracy in the U.S.

With a blog focused upon democracy my regular readers may have been wondering how I could not write about the real and ongoing threat to democracy occurring to the south of us with the installation of a authoritative but unstable narcissist elected president. I simply don’t know what to say that has not already been said and am still in a state of disbelief that so many people can be so brainwashed as to elect such an obvious racist twit.

That said I came across this article (extracts) from The New Yorker written back in November a few days after the election which pretty much predicts his future actions and makes some uncomfortable comparisons.
Whilst his policy's may appal many of us the recent attack upon the press and his constant use of 'alternative truth' is much more troubling with regard to American democracy.

(The Twit) sailed to the presidency on . . . lies and exaggerations, and there’s no reason to think he’ll discover a new commitment to the truth as president,” Stephen Walt, the Harvard foreign-policy realist, writes in a new article in Foreign Policy. “The American people cannot properly judge his performance without accurate and independent information, and that’s where a free and adversarial press is indispensable.”

But, as he demonstrated during the campaign, he is also perfectly willing to attack journalists personally, boycott shows that run segments he doesn’t like, and bar entire news organizations from covering him. Through his Twitter and Facebook accounts, he has a personal “fake news” network with enormous reach, which he can use to circumvent the mainstream media. And in Steve Bannon, his former campaign C.E.O. and now his chief strategist, he has a skilled and unscrupulous propagandist.

The comparison with pre-war Germany has been made by a number of observers and cannot be dismissed.

 Referring to Franz von Papen, the conservative German politician who, in January, 1933, persuaded President Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as Chancellor, Hans-Joachim Voth, an economic historian at the University of Zurich, wrote recently, “the Republican leadership sounds awfully like former Vice Chancellor von Papen and friends. They famously thought of Hitler as the ‘drummer’—a populist whose appeal was useful to them but could be controlled easily.”

Is The Twit a Fascist? Probably not, but some of those with whoom he has surrounded himself almost certainly are and his actions certainly give us a warning as to what is to come.

History, as always, is less a guide than a series of warnings. Fascism was built on the ruins of the First World War, the collapse of the interwar economy, and the failure of democratic political systems to come to terms with these catastrophes. Fascists were also able to exploit a widespread antipathy toward democracy in important institutions, such as the military, the government bureaucracy, and big business organizations. To some extent, Hitler and Mussolini were pushing on an open door. When the ultimate crisis arose, the German and Italian establishments persuaded themselves that they could bring the enemies of democracy into government and hem them in. Of course, once the fanatics gained control of the state apparatus, or parts of it, they used it to consolidate power and eliminate their opponents and erstwhile allies.

I fear that unless he and his 'Alt Right' cabinet and advisers are reigned in quickly that democracy as the American people know it will be but a part of history, the door leading away from it is already unlocked.

The big unknown isn’t what (The Twit) will do: his pattern of behavior is clear. It is whether the American political system will be able to deal with the unprecedented challenge his election presents, and rein him in.

(Note, I refuse to feed the Twits ego, and that of his cheer leaders, by printing his name in this article)

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