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, August 29, 2010

Sunday Morning Thoughts.

"Politics is too serious a matter to be left to politicians"
Charles De Gaulle

"Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.
Nikita Khrushchev

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Australian Coalition Government?

Just 4 months after England, the home of the parliamentary system that many commonwealth countries governance is based upon, formed a coalition government it looks like the same may happen in Australia.

“With 74.7 percent of the vote counted on a two-party preferred basis, Labor and the Liberal-National coalition were tied on 71 seats each in the 150-member House of Representatives, according to the Australian Electoral Commission as of 8:35 a.m. Seventy-six seats in the lower house are needed to form a government. The electorate also voted for 40 of the 76 seats in the upper house Senate.”

At the close of counting last night, the probable composition of the upper chamber was 35 Coalition senators, 31 Labor senators, nine Greens senators and independent Nick Xenophon.
The lower house will take some time to decide but it is clear it will be a minority government between the (conservative) coalition, labor party, greens and that a coalition government with the greens is probable.”

It is interesting to note that the Harper regime is in a minority position and yet there is no coalition government in Canada. Is that due to Harpers arrogance, the oppositions weakness or a total ignorance of how coalitions work by both the Canadian public and our political “leaders”. It is also clear that no matter when the next election may come in Canada, and despite our antiquated electoral system, it will be another minority government, whether or not whoever receives the most seats (and thats not necessarily the most votes) will seek to form a coalition or leave us forever on the brink of an election due to political “games” in the House remains to be seen.

Bottom line – As citizens show their unhappiness with the traditional governing partys, minority and coalition governments are rapidly becoming the norm within countries with various forms of parliamentary democracies. Canada is no different, the choices may not be the same, the electoral system may influence the results somewhat, many of our politicians may say they would not consider forming a coalition, but the reality is that such cooperative governance is coming to a country near you. And the sooner the better from my point of view!

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Long Hot Summer.

“A democracy whose government refuses to heed the will of the majority as routinely as it embraces the narrow interests of a vocal fringe is no democracy at all; it is, by ambition and practice, an elected oligarchy.
In the waning days of a long, hot summer, Canada is coming perilously close to that which its history, traditions and civic sensibilities utterly despise: a nation ruled by a smug, self-satisfied coterie of partisan strong men whose coarse manipulation of facts and rational argument supplants intelligent debate and resists effective opposition.”

So says Alec Bruce a Moncton-based journalist in his column this week. Many of us have expressed this view in recent time but few so eloquently, would that such words had come from an opposition leader in a rousing speech but it would seem that we have no great speakers or leaders, just self-serving political flacks.
Alec goes on to say of the Harper Regime “Their hard line, right-wing mentality has extolled the virtue of certitude in all matters of state, as bias and presumption have proscribed the meritorious, once meretricious, qualifications for public office. Meanwhile, reasonable dissent has become the province of eggheads, elitists and other assorted traitors.”

Therein lays the whole problem, we each may have a different view of what should be done, on stimulus spending criteria, on various social support programs, on foreign affairs, on immigration and on the collection of data by government, this is normal. What is not normal is the manner in which the Harper Regime goes about advancing its “agenda” with a total disregard for parliamentary procedure and expert advice. Any one who expresses an alternative view is dismissed as irrelevant or wrong no matter their credentials. “Arms length” boards and commissions are suddenly not so arms length, their members being summarily replaced with those who will mindlessly repeat the spin and talking points of the regime, scientists and civil servants are silenced, all “information” must be PMO approved, control must be maintained.

As our columnist says reasonable dissent has become traitorous, something to be suppressed or scorned. This is indeed the mark of an elected oligarchy. To complete the transformation of Canada into a “country you wont recognise” and ensure that the Canadian people will not have the will or ability to remove this dictatorial, corrupt and undemocratic regime from power they have but to give the public the impression that their input is meaningless, that everything is just fine and that their detractors are just blowing hot air. When that fails the next best move is to eliminate public funding for opposition partys whilst spending obscene amounts of public money on self promotion and spin doctors, attack the impartiality of Elections Canada and avoid at all cost any move that would modernise our electoral system and encourage citizens to actually vote.

It seems to me that they are well along this road and we have very few opportunities to turn the bus around, that there are but a collection of mediocre alternative drivers to choose from and that no-one can agree which one to put behind the wheel makes us wish we could simply get off the bus, but that is simply not possible. We are all in the same bus, its time to wake up and look where we are going and DO something about it. The question is what, perhaps the first thing we must do is fire the current driver and his crew of “we will tell you anything to keep you happy” tour guides!

As James Travers puts it “This country has a problem. It has a ruling party that twists the truth and an Official Opposition that can’t, or won’t, straighten it out.”
“No party or leader willingly commits political suicide. Instead, they lurk in the shadows, weighing odds and waiting for a promising moment to strike. Still, parties risk everything when what’s good for them is seen to be more important than what’s good for the country.”

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Monday, August 9, 2010

One to watch (updated)

On the “open and accountable” file this report will be interesting reading, I suspect Mr Page and his team are still having problems getting the real figures out of the Harper Regime.

Hundreds of millions of federal infrastructure dollars might not get out the door before the Harper government's program deadline on its economic stimulus plan for the projects next spring, says a new analysis by Parliament's budget watchdog.
Kevin Page, the parliamentary budget officer, said the assessment, to be released on Monday, is based on recent figures from Infrastructure Canada regarding the multibillion-dollar government programs in its stimulus package for the economy.

One wonders what kind of accounting practices the government uses to track such moneys COMMITED to these projects that is not spent (leaving the municipalities to pick up the shortfall), and where it will be spent. Another budget increase for the Spin and Cover up Department (PMO) perhaps?

UPDATE:- The PBO report can be now downloaded at :-

Several observers have noted that the BPO has determined that there is a strong risk of 23% of approved projects not being completed by the March 2011 deadline with a resulting shortfall (if as the government has said they will not honor their funding commitment beyond this date) of abt $290 million. This could go as high as 46% and $500 million. The shocking thing about this report is not so much the above as anyone with any knowledge of large construction projects will tell you, unforeseen problems do occur to delay completion dates. The hard part to swallow is that the government does not seem to really know where and how all the funds are being spent, (or if they do they are not telling Mr Page) as shown in this bit from the PBO.

The claims datasets the PBO has received from Infrastructure Canada include data inconsistencies that affect the relevance and accuracy of PBO performance analysis. Coupled with the fact that a significant number of projects have not yet submitted progress reports, it is impossible to draw authoritative conclusions about the program performance at this time. Parliamentary monitoring of program performance would be better served by a more consistent reporting regime, with appropriate incentives to ensure timely and accurate progress reporting.”

All PBO analysis is sourced from the datasets received from Infrastructure Canada, and the PBO continues to find inconsistencies in the datasets. The Percent Complete figure, for example, is based on the judgement of the reporting proponent and has no clear definition, standard or process to calculate its value. These data inconsistencies impact negatively on the results and accuracy of PBO analysis and does not allow for an authoritative assessment of program performance. “

With the above in mind if we look at the number of projects completed as of March 2010 we see that with 26% of projects “not reported” only abt $650 million of the $4 billion has been “claimed” as of march 2010. We can but hope that this summers construction season will see things move forward more swiftly but where unforeseen circumstances delay completion of these projects the government MUST NOT withdraw committed funding and download the additional costs to municipalities who are already overwhelmed with additional social assistance costs from those whose employment insurance has long since run out. The “recession” is NOT over for many of our citizens, but that “data” will no doubt also be ignored or forgotten by the PMO spin doctors.

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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Time for Change

Recently I received an email from one of the potential candidates running for the Green Party nomination in our riding.
Here in part is what she said…

I chose to put my name forward as a nominee because I am most interested in increasing political participation locally. The Green Party has done amazing work but there's still a lot of people who didn't vote in the last election. To make change happen we need people to feel engaged and be excited about politics. (I know, I know. It's the summer time, people have better things to do.) I'm interested in all of the positive ways that we can help our community do better. The G20 and the way the budget was passed make me angry too, but I don't think it's going to inspire our non-voting neighbours to get to the polls when the time comes. Anger fades with time.

So I'd like to hear from you: what is it that drew you to the Green Party? Do you have a "pet issue" you'd like more people to care about? In your wildest dreams when the Green Party has accomplished everything you hoped it would--what does the world look like? And more specifically: what does our region look like?

Lets take a look at the points she raises….

“To make change happen we need people to feel engaged and be excited about politics.”
I’m not sure that many of us will ever be “excited” about politics but we sure need to be “engaged” if we are to turn this bus around before it goes over the cliff, unfortunately I suspect the current driver will bail out just before it crashes and burns!

“I'm interested in all of the positive ways that we can help our community do better.” and “I am most interested in increasing political participation locally”

Here is where the GPC strikes a cord with many rural residents, with their think local ideas, if the local economy does well and the local supports are in place then the whole country benefits. Government programs must be customized to individual communities, one size does not fit all, made in Ottawa solutions do not work for everyone across the country. Additionally folks are tuning out in disgust from the top down style of governance we have now. We that even follow the federal shenanigans are very much a minority judging from some of the folks who look at me blankly when I talk about the omnibus budget or the value of accurate census data or any other of the arbitrary and partisan decisions the Harper regime pushes through.

“Anger fades with time.” Indeed it does, but all is not forgotten, at least not by this writer and a number of others. The Proroguing fiascos (two in two years), the overspending both before during and after (is it over yet?) the “recession” , the self congratulationary advertising on our dollar, and yes, the G20 mess and spending will not fade from the memory of those who take note of those things. But then how many either never took note in the first place or simply did not care is the bigger question.

“Do you have a "pet issue" you'd like more people to care about?”

I think you all know ONE of my pet issues, I beat the subject to death here on a weekly basis. Our Democracy is in deep trouble and under constant attack, we must stand up and do everything we can to save the (admittedly flawed) system we have, improve it and not let those who would run our county as an autocracy get their way.

My other pet issue so closely linked with the above is “open data” or if you prefer the publishing of all public papers, contracts, expenditures and decisions by government in a timely and easily accessible manner BEFORE requested. Not only to our MPs and “arms length” watchdogs but to the interested public, only then can we say that a government is “open and accountable”. Remember that promise?

“What is it that drew you to the Green Party?”

Yes, I know, I DO try to be non partisan on these pages but my dislike of the current lot (and the seemingly powerless / useless opposition) has been showing for some time so its time I “came out” and said I currently support the Greens.

That said I should answer the question.
Firstly both their current leaders stand and the GPC’s stated position on protecting our Parliamentary Democracy, any party that does not put this front an center is not worthy of you vote, they are merely using, or perhaps misusing the system to their own ends. You cannot pretend to be representing the people unless you support and enhance the system that (in theory at least) give them (the people) the power to control their own destiny.

Secondly their valiant efforts at doing just that within their own party, their efforts to include all the members in decision making, and their publishing of as much data as possible on line for the members to see and discuss. Its not perfect, its still a work in progress and like most things where large groups of people with a variety of views have input to an organization, sometimes messy! That folks is democracy.

Thirdly whilst many folks think they are just about “the environment” they are far more than that, the party is evolving, yes there are divisions between the political strategist and the tree huggers and all those in-between, but that too is democracy. Read the “Vision Green” document, you may find a few things you disagree with (as you would with the “other” party’s vision if they ever had one that they didn’t change each year to suit the current political landscape) but you will find that there is little there that you can really say is truly wrong. Would that we could say the same of those currently “representing” us in the HoC now.

You may tell me I am wrong, that the Greens cannot / will not make a difference, that democracy is not worth fighting for, or that the current lot is greater than sliced bread, all of which I will disagree with, but that too is democracy!

I vote for change and I don’t mean Harpers “you wont recognize the country when I am done” sort of change. Its time!
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