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, March 20, 2011

Standing Up for Democracy

The following letter has been recently published at http://plblack99.blogspot.com/ , I do not know Mr Black and can only say that I agree wholeheartedly with him, we must indeed focus upon the attacks by the Harper regime upon our democratic institutions and show Mr Harper that contrary to his recent statement Canadians DO care about our democracy.

Dear Messieurs Ignatieff, Layton, Duceppe and Ms. May

In the 2006 election, the Conservative Party’s slogan was “Stand Up for Canada. In the coming   election, your common slogan must be “Stand Up for Canadian Democracy”.

I know that you will explain to Canadians why you disagree with various policies of the current government. I am asking that, in addition, you remind Canadians of the numerous practices­ of Stephen Harper which are undermining our democratic institutions - Parliament; the Judiciary; the Civil Service; and Canadians’ right to information and the truth from their government:

Abusing Parliament

·                     Shutting Down (Proroguing) Parliament twice in 5 years, once to avoid a non-confidence vote which would have brought their government to an end, and once to avoid providing information to Parliament on whether our armed forces were collaborating in torture.

·                     Ignoring Canadian Legislationafter passing legislation to establish a fixed date for federal elections, the Prime Minister called an election in 2008 in violation of the new law. Recently, four senior Conservatives were charged with willfully exceeding spending limits in the 2006 election campaign.

·                     Disrupting Parliamentary Committeesthe Conservatives prepared a secret 200 page manual to guide Conservative MPs on how to subvert the work of Parliamentary Committees. Conservative MPs adopted these tactics on many occasions. This is the type of political “thuggery” one expects in Russia or Zimbabwe but not in Canada.

·                     Refusing to Answer QuestionsMinisters refuse to answer questions during Question Period and refuse to allow their staff to respond to questions when summoned by Parliamentary Committees.

Undermining the Canadian Judiciary

·                     Recently, Minister Kenney criticized Federal Court judges for rendering decisions he didn’t agree with. He was sending a message about how they should behave in the future. Such remarks show contempt for judicial independence – an absolute necessity in our system of government.

Attacking the Civil Service

·                     Firing or maligning civil servants who don’t agree with the governmentthe head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (Linda Kean) was fired for ordering the shutdown of the Chalk River reactor; Richard Colvin, a respected Foreign Service Officer, was ruthlessly subjected to personal attacks by the Harper Conservatives as a result of his testimony to a parliamentary committee; the Parliamentary Secretary to the Defense Minister sent out emails promoting the purchase of F-35 airplanes and demeaning the former Assistant Deputy Minister of Defense’s concern about the  sole-source deal as “BS”, without any explanation of this distasteful comment.

·                     Lying about Senior Civil ServantsMinister Oda said that the CIDA President supported the government’s decision to eliminate funding to Kairos. Months later, the Minister admitted that her statement was false. The Minister of Industry claimed that the Chief Statistician (Munir Sheikh) supported the government’s decision to substitute a voluntary census survey for the traditional long form survey. Mr. Sheikh resigned his position in order to tell Canadians that a voluntary survey could not do the job of a mandatory census (i.e., the government lied about his advice).

Lying to, and Hiding Information From, Canadians

·                     The government claimed that hundreds of Canadians had complained about the intrusiveness of the long-form census. Yet, the government was unable to substantiate this claim, and the Privacy Commissioner of Canada had received just three complaints about the census in the last decade.

·                     The government has introduced a dozen crime-related bills. Yet, when asked by MPs about the expected costs of this legislation, so that they can decide its merits, the government claimed that such information is a “Cabinet confidence”. It looks more like Cabinet arrogance and secrecy about Canadians’ public affairs.   

So, my hopes rest with you to remind Canadians of the extreme steps which the Conservative Party, under its current leader, is prepared to take to remain in power. And if Stephen Harper ever achieved a majority in the House of Commons, he would wield near absolute power in his tyrannical approach to governing. M. Chrétien won a (false) majority government on three occasions with only 40 per cent of voter support, and Mr. Harper has the same opportunity under our discriminatory, unrepresentative electoral system. I very much hope that, collectively, you can prevent him from doing so.

Peter Black
Former Public Servant
Government of Canada

This is of course a much foreshortened list of the many instances where the Harper regime has shown total disdain for our parliamentary system. Whilst the opposition's recent awaking to the fact that bringing such abuses to the attention of the public and the HoC is long overdue let us not forget that they do so more for political reasons than for any great concern for our democracy. Only if we the public make this an issue during the coming weeks or months when candidates appear on our doorsteps, and make it clear that the protection of our parliamentary democracy is a condition of receiving our vote will much change no matter who replaces King Harper.

For 'them' to care we must show that 'we' care. Let us make parliamentary and electoral reform an 'up front' issue during the next election – which may well be called as early as next week.

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