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, October 28, 2012

A Week of Unaccountability

I make no effort in these pages to opinionate on things as they happen, even when limited to just attacks upon democracy it would be more than a full time job, I do try and shed some light upon such issues after the fact and highlight areas where future actions may impact upon our ability as citizens to keep government in check. This week has been full of such issues, the China trade deal that restricts our ability to enact laws to protect our environment if they impact upon profits, the Auditor Generals report that parliamentarians are not getting the information they need from the Harper regime, the Parliamentary Budget Officer having to sue the 'government' to get said information and the ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada that 'clerical errors' do not constitute a reason to negate votes. To name but a few.

What follows is a compendium of commentary from a variety of sources on the above issues.

A Sellout Of Our Soverignty!

The unthinkable is now before us. Our Federal Government is undermining our security and dismantling our rights as Canadians to determine how, where, when and whether we develop our resources.

The trade treaty, known as the Foreign Investment Protection Agreement or FIPA, has garnered notable opposition in the past three weeks, with NDP trade critic Don Davies calling for public hearings, Green Party MP Elizabeth May calling for an emergency Parliamentary debate, and campaign organizations Leadnow.ca and SumofUs.org gathering over 39,300 opposition signatures (and counting) to deliver in person to Ottawa.
Yesterday, the Canadian Press reported the Harper government’s refusal to host public hearings. Elizabeth May’s October 1 request was also denied on the grounds that FIPA does not meet the test of emergency.

Grounds for Divorce

The deal apparently empowers China to sue anyone and everyone who impedes their access to Athabasca bitumen.   That, presumably, would target the people and province of British Columbia.   We would be coerced, through lawfare, to bend a knee to Beijing and Ottawa.   Harper has loaded the pistol and put it in Beijing's hand to hold to British Columbia's head.

Mulcair Speaks Out

Despite repeated calls for a public debate and study of this agreement, the Conservative Government Regime has refused to expose this deal to any public scrutiny. As the treaty’s terms  will be in force for a minimum of 31 years, we believe this is irresponsible.

Democracy Under Fire

Whilst there has to be some things the government of the day can proceed with without direct parliamentary approval we wonder how the longstanding (but perfectly legal under existing rules) practice of approving trade deals that substantially affect our right to self determination with only a few days necessary from the publishing of such a deals details and the approval by government without further consultation. Good deal or bad, that is neither democratic nor accountable. Whilst the Harper regime is responsible for negotiating this deal they are not responsible for the system that makes it possible to do so without debate.

Moving on

Parliamentary Budget Officer to Sue
Canada’s parliamentary budget officer says he’ll file court action this week over the refusal of some federal departments to hand over details on billions of dollars in planned cuts by the Harper government..........
Set up by the Conservatives in 2006 as part of their government accountability effort, the budget’s officer’s mandate “is to provide independent analysis to Parliament on the state of the nation’s finances, the government’s estimates and trends in the Canadian economy.”

The Conservative election platform of 2006
“A Conservative government will: Require government departments and agencies to provide accurate, timely information to the Parliamentary Budget Authority to ensure it has the information it needs to provide accurate analyses to Parliament.

“The one way to ensure that we have some scrutiny is for Parliament to have its own set of numbers that aren’t run through the Department of Finance filter, that don’t answer directly to the finance minister, who also has a political interest, a political incentive, to ensure that the numbers flatter his or her position.” (Monte Solberg, Finance Committee, June 21, 2005)

“We believe that an independent, non-partisan parliamentary budget office should produce forecasts of revenues and spending which are universally available and accepted by all parties and experts of all stripes. Such a body would ensure that the government is genuinely accountable for taxpayers’ dollars and that we maintain fiscal discipline at the federal level. (Stephen Harper, Oct 6 2004)

Harper Government Winging It

In his fall 2012 report released Tuesday, Auditor General Michael Ferguson concluded the Department of Finance Canada often does not take into account the impact of tens of billions of dollars of spending and tax measures on the government’s long-term fiscal sustainability.

The Harper government regime promised in its 2007 budget to publish a comprehensive report on the government’s fiscal sustainability that would provide a broad analysis of current and future demographic changes, and the implications on Canada’s long-term fiscal outlook. A draft report was prepared in 2007, but it has not been published.
Moreover, the long-term fiscal sustainability analyses have been regularly prepared since 2010, but have not been made public.

Democracy Under Fire

That the PBO cannot get sufficient information to provide parliamentarians (and citizens) an independent and comprehensive analysis the budget past, current or future make a complete mockery of or parliamentary system. How can any MP opposition or conservative, vote upon a budget without knowing the full implications of the proposals contained therein?
That Mr Flaherty says “He’s look at money that’s not been spent. That’s what we do when we do deficit reduction. We’re not spending that money and he wants to have a look at money that’s not being spent, rather than the manner in which money is spent, which is actually his mandate.” is a non starter. Its like saying a family can cut thousands of dollars from their budget by not buying food and calling that sustainable and achievable budgeting!

And finally we cannot let this week go by unless we mention the Supreme Court of Canada's decision regarding the 'irregularities' in the voting procedures at Etobicoke Centre.

On positive precedents

The system strives to achieve accessibility for all voters, making special provision for those without identification to vote by vouching.  Election officials are unable to determine with absolute accuracy who is entitled to vote.  Poll clerks do not take fingerprints to establish identity.  A voter can establish Canadian citizenship verbally, by oath.  The goal of accessibility can only be achieved if we are prepared to accept some degree of uncertainty that all who voted were entitled to do so.

A Vote For Plutocracy

In a split decision, the Supreme Court today upheld Ted Opitz' win in Etobicoke Centre. The court reinstated 59 of the 79 votes that Justice Thomas Lederer threw out, reasoning that the only invalid votes were "instances where there was no voter's signature on the registration certificate. The signature is supposed to be the voter's statutory declaration that he or she is over 18 and a Canadian citizen."

Democracy Under Fire

This challenge did not allege voter fraud, although it would appear that some attempt at such did take place, but focused upon incorrect identification protocols and paperwork for a few voters. Having viewed the training manual for election workers it is quite clear that the established procedures were not followed. That these folks are just temporary workers with minimal training is no real excuse, better screening and training may need to be put in place. I have seen NO information as to why the election officer in charge at this location allowed these irregularities to take place, or indeed if the workers were even questioned as to why they did not follow protocols.
The good thing that may come out of this is that better training and supervision is now being considered.

That’s all for this week as we await the details of the latest omnibus budget to fully emerge.

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