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.
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Sunday, October 11, 2009

On trust, lies, spin and obfuscation!

Can the Canadian public consider their system of government to be democratic when they cannot access reliable and accurate information on past, present and future decisions made on their behalf and the results arising from such action? This is a question I have been asking myself for some time now, some actions by our politicians are clearly antidemocratic such as deliberately obstructing the committee process but is withholding or “spinning” information. I believe it is. If we the public base our voting choices upon what we are told, be that by the government, the opposition, or the MSM, and that information is not only false or misleading but deliberately made to be so, then this is clearly a attempt to derail the democratic process. In my view democracy demands open and accountable government which means our representatives must themselves be open and truthful.

When one is faced with several conflicting stories from what SHOULD be reliable sources it becomes obvious that one or more of them is disseminating bovine manure. A case in point is the recently released report on the status of Canada's Economic Action Plan, here we have at least three different versions of what has been done, what effect it has had and what will happen in the future. Lets take a look at some of the conflicting information.

Our Government …..ooops, sorry, Harpers Government says that “90 per cent of the stimulus funding for this fiscal year has now been committed” - “More than $7.6 billion in federal funds have been committed to more than 4,700 provincial, territorial and municipal infrastructure projects” and “Our Economic Action Plan is helping create or maintain an estimated 220,000 Canadian jobs by the end of 2010."

The opposition Liberals say “, just 12 percent of the $4-billion Infrastructure Stimulus Fund (ISF) was supporting any construction. A maximum of 4,800 of the intended 40,000 jobs across the country have been created compared to job losses averaging 5,800 a week” I suppose both percentages COULD be true given that announcements and commitments do not equal money spent, but what of the jobs!

The Parliamentary Budget Officer says “Many missing data correspond to implementation and outcome indicators that the GC collects as part of its standard due diligence process and should be readily available. Failing to include these data could hinder Parliament’s ability to provide meaningful oversight of the economic stimulus package.”
“Of greater concern than the absence of readily available information is the regular shifting of titles and categories of stimulus measures. Some measures have been re-categorized or renamed between the GC‟s Reports” - “These changes to the titles and categories of initiatives render it challenging to track implementation progress…….”.

In other words there is insufficient information, or there have been efforts to obscure information to the extent that the PBO is “challenged” to produce an accurate opinion on the report as was required when the budget was passed. “A requirement for legislative approval of Budget 2009 was that quarterly progress reports on budget implementation be provided to Parliament.” If the PBO did not get the “information that would be required to provide Parliament with accurate, timely, and easily understood information on (the) three key issues “ then how does the government, or for that matter the opposition, know the actual situation and figures.

Confused? Seems like even the PBO cannot give us an answer so how can WE be expected to judge the performance of our government.

Ok, lets move on. Are we being told what is going on by our government and if so how? The BUDGETED amount for advertising by the various government department for the FIRST QUARTER OF 2009 totals $65,414,000 of that $34,000,000 (that’s 34 Million Dollars!) was slated for advertising associated with the “Economic Action Plan”. Now that to me equals 1000 good jobs wasted in advertising, but I could maybe forgive that waste if such advertising were to give me details of where to access funds from said action plan or even where said funds are being spent. Instead it would seem it has been spent on repeating adinfinitem “we HAVE a plan, we have a plan”. Excuse me if I am not impressed and find it self serving and anti-democratic.

Meanwhile our political partys continue to play political musical chairs around any legislation put before them, the latest being that EI “reform” bill which in reality is a temporary change to a few eligibility rules that will help a few specific individuals and leave the majority no better off than they were before. But it seems that this bill is so important that whether the government lives or dies is dictated by it according to some partys.

So can we trust ANY of them to tell us “the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth”? Not a chance. Does this detract from our “democracy”? You had better believe it. Am I getting increasingly cynical and frustrated with it all? I think this probably shows that I am. What can we do about it? Be vocal in condemnation of those that spin and lie, and seek out (and elect) those who put honesty, truth and the electorate before party and bovine manure!

Something stinks on Parliament Hill! Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers


ADHR said...

We aren't supposed to be able to judge this, though. Parliament is. That's why it exists and we don't just skip over them and go straight to the government after an election. Our job as voters, in our system, is to judge the success of our Parliamentary representative either as part of the government or as part of the opposition to the government.

Jennifer Smith said...

In fact, both the Liberals and the Conservatives are telling the truth, as far as it goes. The government may well have allocated 80% or 90% of the stimulus funds to announced projects, but hardly any of these projects have actually "started" in terms of breaking ground and putting people to work.

The problem is, allocating doesn't mean spending, and those giant cheques aren't really cheques. They're more like lines of credit where the money is given to municipalities only after the work is started and the invoices come in.

I'm never surprised when governments or political parties spin the facts to their advantage. That's to be expected. Deliberately concealment of facts is quite another matter, though, and that does seem to be what's going on in the case of the stimulus funds.

That said, I also expect the press to do their job: cut through the spin, uncover the truth, and give us the real, unbiased facts so that we can judge. The fact that so few people seem to understand how these funds are being distributed is more a failure of the media than of our democracy.

Mark Francis said...

Apples and oranges. The Cons are including the massire amounts of money given to the auto industry. The Liberals are only talking about the portion for the infrastructure money, which is way behind in implementation.

Monique said...

The media won't do their job. The hands of reporters are tied. Most of the media is owned by very rich people who ensure that what is reported serves their interests - not the interests of the average person, and certainly not the "common good". Many excellent reporters are constantly derailed by their bosses; only being allowed to report certain things. Until the majority of people start reading more independent news publications, we shall remain largely the dupes of those with power (that is, those with money). Those powerful rich are the same people who pull the puppet strings of politicians. If we want reporters to really get to the bottom of things, if we really want to know what's going on, we need to do two things: 1. Stop buying and reading mainstream newspapers and instead use our own financial power (which is significant when combined) to fund newspapers who are free to pursue the real story and 2. Withdraw ourselves from our consumeristic addictions in order to stop funding the mega corporations that create total crap and then seduce us into thinking we need it, and then use the proceeds to control governments and ensure there is no true democracy anywhere.