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

Monday, August 19, 2013

Prorogued Again........

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he intends to prorogue Parliament, which means the House of Commons will not resume in September as planned. Harper, who is currently on a week-long swing through northern Canada, says a speech from the throne will likely be delivered in October, kicking off a new parliamentary session.
The prime minister says most of the promises the Conservatives made in the last election have been fulfilled........
He promised we would not recognize Canada and in that regard he has fulfilled his promise. Naturally the fact that many of the Conservative Senators expenses are under close scrutiny and the Regime does not want to face questioning by the opposition partys has nothing to do with this decision!

Parliament is just an inconvenience to be avoided as much as possible to this Oligarch!
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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Standing Up for Nature and Democracy

This week Forest Ethics Advocacy, launched a constitutional challenge to new requirements in the National Energy Board Act that have the effect of silencing citizens concerned about tar sands pipelines. As pointed out by West Coast Environmental the severe restrictions placed upon public comment by Bill C-38 whereby any citizen wishing to comment upon such projects, even those directly affected, are effectively prevented from doing so. Whilst SOME restrictions MAY be necessary in the interests of such hearing not going on forever, the restrictions now in place are clearly undemocratic. I will let WCEL take it from here.......

“We have previously written about these undemocratic limits on public comment, which were introduced last year in Bill C-38, and how the National Energy Board (NEB) has relied on them to create substantial procedural hurdles for citizens who wish to participate the review of pipeline projects –in particular with respect to an application by Enbridge to reverse a portion of “Line 9” in order to transport of bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to the east.

As we previously reported, concerned citizens were required to complete a lengthy form applying to the NEB before they could submit even a letter of comment, which the NEB retained the discretion to deny. Furthermore, the Notice of Application to the Federal Court in the recently launched challenge details how individuals and groups who applied and disclosed that they intended to make submissions on matters related to the tar sands were denied the right to participate or were downgraded from intervenor to commenter status. This is because, according to the form, the NEB had already closed its mind to considering the relationship between the pipeline and the development of the tar sands, despite the fact that increased pipeline capacity is a key enabling factor for tar sands expansion. As Forest Ethics Advocacy notes:
Comments by people who live up or downstream from the tar sands and are experiencing serious health impacts, or people who are concerned about health risks posed by increased toxic emissions at tar sands refineries, or people who want to expose the link between the tar sands and climate change are forbidden from expressing any analysis of a project's impacts.
Information about health and environmental impacts from citizens and scientists have therefore been excluded by law from the analysis of a project's impact.
The applicants in the federal court case, Forest Ethics Advocacy and two citizens who were impacted by the new NEB rules, submit that the new section NEB Act (s.55.2) violated their freedom of expression under the Charter and should be struck down.
This court case is an important test of the constitutionality of steps taken last year by the federal government to silence citizens concerned about tar sands pipelines, and one that the West Coast Environmental Law Association is pleased to support. Please consider doing so as well.”

- Remember that this Environmental Advocacy group is one that the Harper Regime has called “enemies of the state” for their work in making us aware of the risks and possible ecological disasters associated with the oil industry’s plans.

Bill C-38 repealed the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and replaced it with a new Act (CEAA 2012).  CEAA 2012 introduces the new rule that, for certain environmental assessments, only “interested parties” will be able to participate.  Interestingly, CEAA 2012 says that the NEB (unlike other government bodies conducting assessments) is not required to consider written comments received from the general public.
The NEB Act was also amended.  Section 55.2 of the Act say:
... the Board shall consider the representations of any person who, in the Board’s opinion, is directly affected by the granting or refusing of the application, and it may consider the representations of any person who, in its opinion, has relevant information or expertise. A decision of the Board as to whether it will consider the representations of any person is conclusive.
It’s pretty clear that the NEB – through its new 10 page application procedure – is implementing the definition of “interested party” and directly affected found in the new CEAA 2012 and in the amended NEB Act.  So the procedure is clearly intended to address the changes in C-38.

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

What Jeff Said.......

Even if it could, Senate reform shouldn’t proceed without the provinces – or the people

To the surprise of everyone in the Ottawa bubble, Her Majesty’s Minister of State for Democratic Reform, Pierre Poilievre, held a press availability Wednesday not to slam the Liberals for some alleged sins, but to actually speak to an issue of policy substance: the government’s Supreme Court reference on Senate reform.
The minister discussed the factum the government has presented to the court outlining its position, marking the first time the words “Pierre Poilievre” and “factum” have appeared in the same sentence. The government has put several questions to the court, essentially seeking clarity around what reforms Parliament can make on its own, what reforms would require provincial approval, and what level of provincial approval would be required for outright abolition, ie. unanimity, or seven provinces with half the population.
The Harper government’s position is that it can proceed unilaterally on Senate reform. I’m not a legal expert, but most of those I’ve seen weigh-in say, while it can proceed unilaterally in some ways, substantive reform does mean constitutional reform. And while the feds can make some changes to areas of sole federal interest on its own, substantive reforms would likely go beyond that.
But I’ll let the legal experts, and of course the Supreme Court, hash that one out. There’s what’s legal, and what’s right. And even if the courts said the feds could substantively reform or even abolish the Senate without the provinces, I’d argue they lack the moral authority to do so and would be making a mistake if they tried.
I’ve written extensively on the Senate in the past. Most recently I’ve argued what I’d like the Senate to be – an upper chamber with equal representation by province or region with clearly defined powers, to serve as a regional counter-weight to what should be a purely representation by population lower chamber in the House of Commons. With uneven population growth across the country, I think that’s an important piece to have in our parliament. The provinces have an undeniable interest in ensuring regional voices are heard and represented fairly in parliament; it’s difficult to argue this is purely a federal matter.
However, I would go beyond just requiring provincial approval through the amending formula for substantive Senate reform or unanimity for abolition. The people must be involved too. When Stephen Harper first came to Ottawa as a staffer and later a Reform MP in 1993, he was a leader in a party that believed in consulting the people on such matters via referendum. It’s time he returned to his roots.
Before we proceed down the road to reforming or abolishing the Senate, which would be a pretty major change to our democracy, the people must become involved. We need to have a debate in this country around how we want to be represented, and what we want our democracy and our parliament to look like.
And then we should vote in a national referendum, and the federal and provincial governments should proceed as the people direct.
All I can add is that the Federal Ministry of Democratic Reform is, just like so much else coming out of this government, just window dressing. Let us dress up the dummy in the window in various outfits and see what the public reaction is and then just ignore them anyway!
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