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

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Seasons Greetings

May you all be safe, happy and healthy during this season
of celebration, giving & receiving.

May 2012 bring equality, fulfillment, contentment 
& true democracy to us all.
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Sunday, December 18, 2011

It Stinks On The Hill

Justin Trudeau's perceptive description of one of the Harper Regimes mouthpieces got me to thinking! Out here in rural Canada we are used to the occasional smell wafting up the hill from the nearest agricultural enterprise but it is no big deal, a fresh breeze will come along shortly and dissipate the odor. Over on the other hill, the one in Ottawa, its a different story, not only is there a overabundance of bovine and equine excrement but unlike out here in the country where it falls to the ground and fertilizes the flowers they deal with it differently. Up there they carefully package it in lies and deceit, wrap it up in secrecy and finish it off with a bow of utter contempt, it matters not, it still stinks when unwrapped!

With the above in mind here are a few of the more recent packages found laying around and starting to smell really bad.......

Codifying secrecy - Marc Garneau asked about the government’s attempts to move committee business in camera across the board. That means that while witness hearings would still be public, any other committee discussions would be made secret, including any motions that the opposition might make (only to be subsequently voted down). This was noted yesterday by Kady O’Malley, and echoed by Elizabeth Thompson on two of the committees they’ve been covering.

So that firm that the Conservatives hired to do the reprehensible political dirtbaggery in Irwin Cotler’s riding? Was hired by a number of Conservatives during the last election, including the would-be Speaker himself. Was this mentioned in his ruling? No, it was not.

Top bureaucrats in Ottawa have muzzled a leading fisheries scientist whose discovery could help explain why salmon stocks have been crashing off Canada's West Coast............... documents show the Privy Council Office, which supports the Prime Minister's Office, stopped Kristi Miller from talking about one of the most significant discoveries to come out of a federal fisheries lab in years.
(This package just got unwrapped here.)

A federal court judge issued a declaration that Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz offended the rule of law by introducing legislation which did not comply with the Canadian Wheat Board Act. The existing act requires the minister to consult with the CWB directors and hold a plebiscite among CWB producers before making changes to the CWB monopoly. Ritz has declared that the general election last spring served as the only vote he needed since the vast majority of CWB ridings voted for Conservative MPs.

The Harper team made accountability a cornerstone of its pitch for government back in 2006, ................ But the ethics organization reports that the Harper government has failed to live up to its promises. “Five years after the Federal Accountability Act became law, dishonesty, conflicts of interest, excessive secrecy, unlimited donations all are still legal,”

Two years ago, during the H1N1 pandemic, it was reported that there was an unusually large cluster of infections at the St. Theresa Point First Nation community in northern Manitoba. Health Canada did an epidemiological study to investigate and determined at least some of the likely causes. But someone, in his infinite wisdom, decided the study should remain secret. It took an access to information request by the Winnipeg Free Press and a followup complaint to the information commissioner to obtain even a redacted copy of the report.

Signed Sept. 20 and effective immediately, the policy says the Mounties must consult and get approval from Public Safety for communications regarding non-operational matters “PRIOR (emphasis in original) to public use” for almost everything. On “major operational events,” all communications need to be shared with Public Safety Canada officials “for information only” prior to public use.
According to the document, the goal is to ensure advance notice of “communications activities,” “consistent” interdepartmental co-ordination, better “strategic” communications planning, and more “integrated Government of Canada messaging.”

There are an estimated 1,500 communications staffers working in ministers’ offices and departments, including 87 in the PMO and PCO. Soon after Mr. Harper won power, the Prime Minister’s staff started deciding which reporters could ask questions, skipping those they suspected weren’t in the government’s favour. Media access to the Prime Minister and his caucus, in general, has become minimal. (so there are lots of folks in the PMO to package all that 'stuff'!)

There are many more hidden packages laying around with strange odors coming from them but thats about all I can take in one post. We are all in deep shit and someone is really busy hiding the shovels.

(Sorry Ottawa, best get used to it, there is no fresh wind forecast for 3 or 4 years and even then we could have a wind from the wrong direction.)
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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Does Income change the Outcome?

By now you have all seen the OCED report that says “The richest 1% of Canadians saw their share of total income increase from 8.1% in 1980 to 13.3% in 2007”. It was this discrepancy along with the actual amount that the rich take home compared with the average working man that spawned the Occupy movement. Recently questions are being asked, and rightly so, as to if or how this effects our democracy and I will get back to that in a minute. First, so that we can truly see what this divide real means let us look at the actual numbers (as provided by Stats Can for 2009), below is data extracted from two separate Stats Can tables combined for easy comparison and with % columns added. Click on table to enlarge.

Whilst all the dialog has been about the top 1% and the remaining 99% I prefer to take a little broader view. It can be see for instance that only just over 5% of individuals made more than $100,000 whilst the remaining 95% or so are below that threshold. The same column indicates that a full quarter of individuals took home less than $15,000 and that the median income was $28, 840. Please note 'median' is not the same as average, this indicated that an equal number of individuals made more than $28, 840 as did make less. It does not of course show the obscene salaries (and other perks) of those few at the very top but (presumably) includes them in the 'making above $250,000 category!.
A warning here statistics can be spun any which way and are reliant upon the input data so if for instance some of those very low income individuals filed income tax (which is I presume where this data came from) to get the gst rebate and some did not it would skew the numbers, as would the use of offshore accounts and creative bookeeping from the more affluent. Never the less I find it more revealing to look at actual income levels rather than saying the gap is getting wider or the top XX% is getting XX% more than the bottom XX%, that to me is pretty much meaningless!

I have transferred the family incomes to the chart for the same income levels for comparison, make what you wish of them but do note that nearly 10% of FAMILIES bring home less than $25,000. One final note before I move on, the report also says that “Since the mid-1980s, annual hours of low-wage workers fell from 1300 to 1100 hours, while those of higher-wage workers fell by less, from 2200 to 2100 hours.” Its not so much the change that bothers me but the fact that those with low income who NEED the hours cant get them, whilst those who could afford to make room for a few more fellow workers by reducing their hours do not. Not as simple as that perhaps but sharing a job may be better than more on unemployment or welfare?

Any way, my excuse for posting this was to talk about if such disparities of income effect our democracy, I recently heard a discussion on TVO on this very subject where one speaker said yes, the rich (particularly the corporate rich) have greater access to government via lobbying and 'consultation' than do the poor. Another speaker (I believe it was Preston Manning) said that so long as 5 or 6 citizens can form a political party, expand it and develop it into a viable option then democracy is alive and well! Well Preston you may have done that but the party you formed is no longer in existence and conditions today are a far cry from those days, nor does the ability to form a political party constitute all there is to democracy. The ability to spend vast sums of money to publicize and promote your point of view has been clearly shown to be necessary to get the voters to take any notice, a fact that our current government has grasped only too well with their ever expanding 'publicity' department in the PMO and their removal of per vote funding to developing and smaller partys. Additionally, those that are on the upper rungs of the income ladder can better afford to contribute larger sums to the party of their choice than can the guys at the bottom for whom a $50 or $100 donation is a big hunk out of their budget.

So yes, income does indirectly effect our democracy by a disparity of both access and funding to political partys and thus effect both the platform, actions, and media attention of whatever party the rich or poor support gets. Money and the ability to spend on advertizing should not affect the way the population votes and the party who gets to run our government for a while, but it clearly does, and indeed recently did, enough so that the conservatives 'bent the rules' so that they could spend more. Meanwhile just to rub salt into the wound the very services that the folk on the lower end of the ladder, and those who have just been pushed back one more step, need are being cut. “Employment Insurance processing centers are being cut from 120 to 19.” NINETEEN! across the entire country with “The number of unemployed Canadians increasing for the second straight month, climbing by 20,500 to 1,394,700.” I bet these folk believe there is a effect upon democracy and governance by income values!

And that’s the way it looks to this lower income Canadian as service cuts loom, full time jobs disappear, and banks and corporations report increasing profits and I feel helpless to effect the choices that various levels of government are making.

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

The H@$#&r Government.

Regular readers will know that I refuse to use the phrase that links OUR Government directly with the leader of the Conservative party, preferring to use the more accurate term when referring to that portion of government coming under direct control of this dictatorial leader, that being the 'Harper Regime'. 

We must respect those thousands of government worker who work for us in the Canadian Government and who are forced to use that untenable phrase by directive of said regime, and make no mistake despite all the denials the use of said phrase was and is a directive of said leader and his personal (and ever expanding) crew of mini dictators in the PMO. Thanks to the The Canadian Press and their persistence if obtaining freedom of information documents on this issue we can now specifically say that when Dimitri Soudas, wrote to Canadian newspapers asserting "no directive" went out to civil servants to use the offending phrase and that "Nothing could be further from the truth," he was lieing on behalf of the regimes leader, Mr (you wont recognize this country) Harper.

The use of this heading on press releases and other official documents is offensive enough and according to “top former civil servants” “ breaches both communications policy and the civil service ethics policy” but the so very obvious lieing and cover up once again shows this regime up for exactly what it is.

All that said, we cannot entirely blame the Harper Regime for the persistence of this phrase, yes government employees have little choice but to follow directives from above but the press, and indeed us bloggers, do NOT have to legitimize this phrase by continually repeating it. Simply substituting the single word 'government' or 'Harper' or 'the PMO' where appropriate or, if you prefer as I do, 'The Harper Regime' and refusing to publish anything with those inaccurate, self serving and unethical words attached would quickly bring to an end such 'branding' of OUR government.

There has been much written this week since the Canadian Press broke this story, unfortunately they almost all, in criticizing the use of the word “Harper” in conjunction with the word “Government”, actually use said phrase and thus increase its use and visibility, much I would imagine to the delight of the Harper Regime!

This then is a call to all reader of this blog to cease and desist using the phrase “The (offensive word removed) Government” and to ask others who publish on line and in print, and even broadcasters in radio and TV to do the same. Its a small push back against this oligarchal regime against whom we have so little recourse, but in my view it is a meaningful one.

A t/h to Impolotical for picking up on the Canadian Press piece on this and the many other who followed suit but will you all please start using a more accurate phrase when describing or alluding to the current 'government'.

  1. A government, esp. an authoritarian one.
  2. A system or planned way of doing things, esp. one imposed from above.


1. A small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution.
2. A state governed by such a group

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