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 13, 2011

More Contempt, More Secrecy, More Stalling

I have been trying hard to NOT turn this site into an anti Harper Regime rant but it is very difficult given that said regime is constantly providing more ammunition to reinforce the position that they are indeed an antidemocratic bunch that will ignore or stall any and all rulings that question their actions.
The last week has seen the opposition finally bring some of these abuses of power to the floor of the House of Commons, a long overdue move but perhaps understandable in that given the Harpers regimes practice to make each and every sticky issue a vote of confidence and thus force an election.
At this point failure of the opposition to pursue these issues through to what may well be that very outcome can only be called antidemocratic in and off itself.

Several vote this week were focused upon democratic issues. There are the two rulings by the speaker of the House that The Harper Regime is in contempt of parliament. One for refusing to supply details of the costs and operational requirements of the proposed F35 fighter purchase, the cost of their cuts to corporate taxes as well as documents related to the cost of the tough on crime proposals. The other for the alteration of documents in the KAIROS funding fiasco.

This is the essence of the Speaker's ruling:"However, there is no doubt that an order to produce documents is not being fully complied with, and this is a serious matter that goes to the heart of the House's undoubted role in holding the government to account... For these reasons, the Chair finds that there are sufficient grounds for a finding of a prima facie question of privilege in this matter."Note those words: "a serious matter that goes to the heart of the House's undoubted role in holding the government to account."This is a very serious finding, by the Speaker of our Parliament, whose job is to uphold our rights as citizens when our Parliament meets to debate our affairs

Milliken also ruled against embattled International Aid Minister Bev Oda, who is accused of lying to Parliament with a tortured explanation of a political decision to deny funding to a long-standing charitable organization, KAIROS, that often disagreed with Conservative policies. Oda first suggested bureaucrats had rejected the KAIROS application before it was revealed that someone had inserted the word “not” into funding documents after the bureaucrats had okayed the cash, in order to stop the money from flowing.
The next step: the Speaker has given his approval to House of Commons committees to investigate and vote out a recommendation to the full Parliament whether in both cases the Conservative Government and Bev Oda was indeed in contempt of Parliament.

And remember the speakers ruling on the afghan documents 11 months ago arising from the refusal to comply with the previous house of commons motion to produce said documents some months before that and the continued lack of action on this file.

The federal government breached parliamentary privilege with its refusal to produce uncensored documents related to the treatment of Afghan detainees and must provide the material to MPs within two weeks, Speaker Peter Milliken has ruled. (April 27 2010)

House of Commons has adopted a motion, on December 10, 2009, ordering the production of Government documents related to the transfer of Afghan detainees from the Canadian Forces to Afghan authorities,

The committee deliberations regarding which documents may be seen by our elected representatives continue to be stalled and we wonder exactly what, if anything, will come of this. I have said before its all very well having rules, and getting the speaker to rule if such things should be taken to committee but if there are no penalties for ignoring his rulings, stalling committees charged with deciding what to do and generally putting things off for months if not years, then why bother?

Add to all this the fact that two Conservative senators and some senor Conservative staff have been now charged in the 'in and out scheme' that Harper insists is 'just an accounting error” and his recent reply when confronted with the fact that the Speaker has twice more ruled his government in a prima facie case of breach of privilege, Harper shrugs and says, “You win some, you lose some.” And hey, isn’t it awful what happened in that hockey game.

Prof. Ned Franks, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Queens University suggests, “to put it kindly, that the government is, at a minimum, ignorant of the rules and principles governing parliamentary democracy and, to put it unkindly, that they don’t give a damn and they’ll try to get away with what they can."

Then there are the constant anti democratic attack ads using out of context and misleading quotes from the opposition leader, that would be grounds for legal action but for one thing, political parties are exempt from broadcast advertising standards. Whats with that?

There is however one political ad that is pro democracy and points out the harm that all this negativity is doing to our democracy by turning off voters, check out the GPC Change the Channel on Attack Ads video

It seems to me the the terms 'The Harper Regime' and 'Antidemocratic' are synonymous and that any reference to this lot and 'open and accountable is an oxymoron. No wonder I am having trouble separating democratic issues from partisan issues.

My thanks to the various bloggers who I have quoted and linked to in this piece, its getting hard to keep up without help!

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