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, December 6, 2009

Are our Representatives Listening

Its been another strange week on the political front which makes it all the more difficult to keep these pages relatively non partisan, they are after all supposed to be about democracy which SHOULD be independent of political ideology but in actual reality is closely tied to the efforts each party puts into ether supporting it or subverting it.

The refusal of the Ontario Government to hold public hearings on the HST proposal for that province and the support for that proposal in our Federal Legislature despite broad public outrage made me wonder if any of those who purport to represent us are listening.

Our PM releasing his Economic Action Plan update on a plane to China rather that in the House of Commons coupled with his refusal to call a public inquiry into the possible withholding of information on the Afghan prisoner affair, despite a motion to that effect having passed in the HoC, make me wonder how the public can make voting decisions when the facts are withheld or misrepresented.

The one body that I am not (yet) completely in despair of is the Senate, there is still a great deal of good work coming from that chamber, however the efforts to subvert it for political purposes increases daily. That most senators are “political appointees” and a good number of them look at legislation with this in mind rather than the actual wording and impact of the propose legislation is an ongoing problem with this body. I am not the only one who thinks so below is part of a post by dale_smith which highlights both sides of that conundrum.


Sober second thought just won't do


The Senate has actually been doing its job – sober, second thought on the technical aspects of legislation – and the Conservatives are not happy. There are two bills in particular – Bill C-6 on updating the consumer product safety laws in this country, and Bill C-15, which imposes harsher mandatory minimum sentences on drug crimes. But while both bills passed the Commons unmolested, the Senate has been a different story, and they’re taking a far more critical look at these bills, and *gasp* they’re doing their job and proposing amendments.This just won’t do.So the Conservatives have been on the attack. The Health and Justice ministers go on television to denounce the Senate (those awful, unelected Liberal hacks – though the unelected Conservative hacks are all a-okay). During Members’ Statements yesterday, the Conservatives were on the warpath about how Michael Ignatieff needed be a real leader and get his Senators into line (even though they’re an independent chamber).Liberal Senator Joseph Day appeared on Power & Politics last night, and gave probably the best explanation for the Senate and its role in recent memory:


The House of Commons is a house of politics, and they balance things on politics. They look at all the matters that are before them, what they want to get out, what they want to fight. We look at each piece of legislation, and we’re somewhere between the judiciary – the judges – and the political body, the House of Commons. We have a role to play that is quite different from the House of Commons, and we do our job and they do theirs. I don’t think anybody should think that we are just the other side of the coin of the House of Commons.


And he’s absolutely right – they have a different job to play, and far too often, the House will pass bad bills because it’s bad politics to be seen to vote against it – and Bill C-15 is certainly proof of that. I know plenty of Liberals who were not happy that they were whipped into voting for it, but they can’t be seen be “soft on crime” in the current political climate. So it falls on the Senate to pick up the pieces – exactly like the chamber was designed to do back in 1867. Imagine that. The Conservatives can huff and puff all they like, but the Senate has a job to do, and as much as they don’t like it, it’s called a part of our democratic system.

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5 comments:

Al Goodhall said...

I have become increasingly agitated over the past few years at the state of our political leadership. My anxiety and frustration continues to mount.

At the municipal, provincial and federal levels our political leaders continue to govern based on ideology and not on the issues that effect the majority of Canadians. Perhaps I am simply naive in believing that political leadership is about making difficult decisions that are in the best long term interests of the majority rather than the short term interests of the party the leader represents. Or, indeed, the best interests of the leaders themselves.

Many individuals have taken the approach the the best thing to do under the circumstances is simply not to participate in any way at all. Democracy is most certainly under fire.

Thanks for the blog and the voice of reason. I also am very concerned about the state of our democracy and the way we are governed.

Rural said...

Al.
Traveling across the country as you do you must hear a great variety of opinion on our political leadership and as you say many have “given up”. Despite also becoming “increasingly agitated” and having difficulty in keeping a neutral and reasonable tone to these posts I cannot believe that ignoring the problem will make it go away.
I can report that outside of the large urban areas MOST Municipal councils are still using consensus and common sense in their decision making, that some are becoming politicalized is indeed a thing to be watched.

Al Goodhall said...

I do hear a great deal of opinion. Not surprisingly most of it is strongly partisan and polarized along the lines of right & left. It seems to me to be more of an endorsement of popular opinion as it is played out in the mainstream media rather than any form of in depth analysis or deep thought by most people. But on the bright side I think the internet is providing us with a means to bring some consensus and common sense back into our political decision making. As the mainstream political parties make greater use of the internet and endorse social networking as part of their campaign drives they may very well be strengthening our democracy and making change possible that they do not envision. Changes in electoral reform that they would not otherwise endorse if left to their own devices. In effect mirroring those local Municipal councils in rural areas that you mention. Blogs and social networking sites have provided me with a means to actively participate in discussions in a way that would not otherwise be possible living in a city of 330,000 plus individuals. As a communication tool we have only scratched the surface of the internet's potential. As long as it remains a source for all of us to express our opinions and share our thoughts freely it may very well be democracy's great salvation.

Finally I will end this long winded reply by stating my agreement with you in the strongest possible terms that ignoring the problems that exist in our political system will not make them go away. I admit that I have taken that very approach over much of my lifetime. It has been more out of ignorance than intent that I have done so. I recognize now that my lack of participation has added to the problem and, well, here we are. I am an old dog learning some new tricks!

Rural said...

I must agree that the internet may well be the savior of democracy, interestingly my cousin in England thinks the same thing. She says quite bluntly “Facebook is also quite good for the odd bit of activisim. I have joined up and signed up to a few things there that should stir the crap a bit. My vote at the ballot box is so ineffectual that this seems a better way. The more we can put the shits up the politicos the more will get done. Just them getting elected and given seven years to ignore us won`t work any more. The world will go to hell in a handcart while the fatcat politicos feed from the trough unless we shout loud enough. I think the interweb is the way forward.”

So it seems it’s the same across the water! This all makes me think that a post regarding the impact that the internet is having upon our democracy and the effect it is having upon information we need to make decisions is a good idea. I will work on it!

Al Goodhall said...

I'm looking forward to it!!