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, December 23, 2012

Unwrap this for Christmas!

I wish I could present you with some uplifting and exciting presents on the democracy front at this time of year but I fear it is not to be, there may be hidden amongst the lumps of coal and crushed remains of our parliamentary democracy a few items that you may be able to salvage but I am sad to say that they are few and far between.

Here then are a few of the things that fill your stocking ready for you to rummage through them.....

At the top is a book, but not one that gives one a warm and fuzzy feeling. As reviewed by Frances Russell at ipolotics and written by political scientists Peter Aucoin, Mark D. Jarvis and Lori Turnbull it looks at the state of our democracy under the Harper regime. Here are some extracts from Russels review that need no further comment.

They define electoral democracy as “a system in which the electorate decides who forms the government and the prime minister then governs as a virtual autocrat until the next election … The concentration of powers … cannot be permitted to remain in the hands of a single individual who is able to undermine democratic governance at his or her will.”

Harper’s Blitzkreig on parliamentary democracy began in 2008. “Harper, in less than two years, made three unilateral decisions showing clearly how a Canadian prime minister not only can exercise unconstrained power at whim to prorogue and dissolve Parliament but also to declare on what he would accept or not accept as a vote of confidence,” the authors write.

“As with the election call in 2008, there is no evidence that the prime minister was much concerned about public opinion over his abuse of prorogation. If anything, it appears that having successfully employed the first prorogation as an effective partisan tool to avoid defeat in the House, Conservative strategists seized on it as a handy tool for further use.”

University of Toronto professor emeritus of politics Peter Russell describes Canadian democracy as “very weak.” Canada now has what he calls “presidential prime ministerial parliamentary government,” he said, adding that unless Canadians do something soon to save their parliamentary democracy, “they will have presidential government, period.” The leader now controls caucus and cabinet and runs the show, he said. It’s reached a point where the prime minister’s political staff has more power than the cabinet. “We have a 35-year-old ‘communicator’ telling a veteran 55-year-old cabinet minister when to stand up and when to sit down,” Russell said.

The book does however propose a solution. Canada should follow the lead of its sister Commonwealth countries Britain, Australia and New Zealand and codify the principles of parliamentary democracy to ensure the players — voters and politicians — understand the playbook and stay within the rules.

“The other systems have rules about prorogation and dissolution, especially dissolution,” said Turnbull whose book proposes some specific solutions..

The next item to unwrap is wrapped in the Star and contains the news from the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression that the result of a recent study by the Centre for Law and Democracy that ranked the strength and effectiveness of global access to information laws that of 93 countries ranked Canada stands at 55. This is a drop from a year ago when Canada was ranked at an embarrassing 40th in the effectiveness of laws intended to guarantee that all Canadians — journalists and citizens — have a right to public government information that is not supposed to be kept secret.

If you are going to have a democracy, you have to have a citizenry that knows the essence of the issues,” CJFE president Arnold Amber told the more than 500 journalists and others gathered Wednesday night for the organization’s annual gala to honour courageous reporting.
CJFE points out, quite rightly, that access to public information is a critical component of our right to freedom to expression. It’s how we hold governments to account. The organization has now launched a public campaign to convince Canadians that “what you don’t know can hurt you.” They are seeking public input through a brief survey on its website to gather your views on Canada’s access to information system. That information will be included in the CJFE’s submission to a current review of Canada’s 30-year-old Access to Information Act.
“our access to information system is mired by delays, extensions, exceptions and exemptions — and, on occasion, by blatant political interference, the destruction of documents and intentional failure to create records.” .........Silencing free expression, blocking citizens’ right to information is routine operating procedure in repressive regimes.

Hiding down in the bottom we have this lump of coal donated by Canadian Dimensions.....

U.S. corporations have launched an alarming new offensive against Canadian health and environmental policies under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Three U.S. firms recently announced plans to use the “trade” pact to seek nearly one billion taxpayer dollars in private, NAFTA-created tribunals as compensation for Canadian policies on fracking, wind energy, and medicine patents.
Of the three corporate threats, perhaps most worrisome is the notice filed by U.S.-based pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, which became public this week. It marks the first attempt by a patent-holding pharmaceutical corporation to use the investment provisions in NAFTA (or any other U.S. FTA) as a tool to push for greater monopoly patent protections, which elevate the cost of medicines.
But how can a foreign corporation directly demand taxpayer compensation from a sovereign government over a democratically-determined policy? Meet the “investor-state” system. Written into NAFTA, this system uniquely empowers foreign corporations to skirt domestic laws and courts and directly challenge a government’s public interest policies.
The article goes on the give details of these attacks upon our right to conduct our own affairs as we see fit but more troubling is that Harper is as I write considering a similar 'agreement' with China!

There are a couple of more promising things yet to be fully unwrapped the newest of which is the Idle No More Rallys across Canada, they have become much more than just about First Nations but more about the way the Harper Regime regards all of its citizens both natives and settlers. Another present fighting for our attention is the Lead Now initiative which is also greatly concerned with the FIPA China deal in addition to their other great work in holding Harpers feet to the Yule Log.....

I do wish you all A Merry Christmas and a relaxing and special time with family and friends and hope that next year I will be able to find you some better presents from the democracy isle.

Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

1 comment:

Owen Gray said...

An excellent review of our current situation. May the New Year change it for the better.