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, December 28, 2014

Looking over our shoulder....

Traditionally this is the time of the year that we look back over the past 12 months and remember the highlights, both good and bad, in an effort to 'do better' in the coming year. I would suggest that perhaps we had better keep our eyes firmly in the future lest we walk off the cliff from the highlands of a vibrant democracy and fall into the swamp of authoritarianism and tyranny, we have been traipsing through the scrub-lands of oligarchy for some time now.

However when we have strayed from the path it is often instructive to retrace our steps and see where thing went wrong and here at Democracy Under Fire we intend to do just that over the coming months. Starting in January we will be examining the rise to power and the actions of The Harper Regime over the past 15 years or so as it relates to our democracy, our parliament, our electoral system and our right to know what is being done on our behalf.

In what will be monthly articles leading up to the 2015 election we hope to briefly cover the main events that have brought us to the point where an unnamed civil servant can make the following quote that accurately describes the way our government now works.

In terms of transparency, all ministers in the Canadian government are transparent … because you can look right through them and see the prime minister’s office in the background.”

So whilst I hope my readers keep a eye of the future I hope they will remember to check up on us stumbling around in the weeds, I know there must be a better path back there somewhere and to find it we must examine each turn and fork in the road that led us to the edge of the cliff. Our 'leaders' seem determined to to each try a path in different directions and it remains to be seen if those tracks will take us to a clearing or another swamp, but even soggy ground is better than that long drop of the edge. I hope to show that the path we are on leads to disaster, it is not a journey I am looking forward to but is, I believe, a necessary one, for if we cannot see where we went wrong then how can we make better choices in the future.

May the choices you make in 2015 put you on to a path leading to peace and prosperity for all.

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

An Open Letter to Tom Mulcair.

Dear Sir
I am in receipt of you self congratulatory email boasting of how you have just signed the Fair Vote Canada's Politicians' Pledge, I congratulate you on doing so and would hope that many other MPs from all parties join you in doing so but have a number of concerns with the other issues raised in you communications.
Firstly your “commitment to make 2015 the last unfair election — and 2019 the first election to use a truly democratic electoral system” is clearly unobtainable...... unless you intend to either impose a new system upon Canadians without public consultation and a referendum on the issue or propose to hold a national referendum (with its extensive cost and logistics) BEFORE the 1019 election. This assumes that the NDP would be in a position to bring such a thing to pass which seems highly improbable. It is in fact highly improbable in any case unless and until the Liberals and the NDP stop sniping at each other and cooperate on this issues, including recognizing who the real enemy is – namely the Harper Regime.

I am further concerned with your statement that you “will be seeking a mandate to adopt a mixed member proportional representation system (MMP)”, NOT I note a mandate to seek public consultation (as the pledge says) for which system of electoral reform should be put before the citizens. There are several types of voting systems that each bring their own degree of 'proportionality' and with their own set of assets and difficulties, each of these systems can be further influenced by the manner in which they are implemented. It is insufficient to just say we support MMP (or for that matter any of the other possibilities) without detailing the particular version of that system to be considered. It is in fact premature and presumptuous to limit the choice to one system before any public consultation has taken place. I urge you to change you position and lobby for electoral reform as a whole and fully cooperate with those Parties that have also elected for this approach which of course include the Liberals and the Green Party of Canada who have long held this position.

If we are to ever reform our electorate system it will require Consultation, Cooperation, and Consensus among those political parties who are not supporters of the status quot in order that the public does not simply become frustrated with the whole thing. I would hope that you and your colleagues and indeed ALL other MPs can put their political thirst for power aside and put our democracy at the top of their agendas.

The blogger known as 'Rural'.
Owner of the site 'Democracy Under Fire'.

CC Justin Trudeau, Elizabeth May

I note that any parliamentary email address in the 'CC' line was-
 rejected by the server for the recipient domain parl.gc.ca. by mailer88.parl.gc.ca. [].

The error that the other server returned was:
550 Denied by policy

What Gives?

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Singing Dictator

A guest post by Pamela Mac Neil

"Music is always a commentary on society" Frank Zappa

Whenever I hear that Harpers base is made up of primarily seniors I am a bit perplexed. Not that I don't think it's true, because it is. Boomers of which I am one are now seniors, so when I think of older people or seniors, I think of the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Randy Bachman , Leonard Cohen, Dylan or Van Morrison to name a few. It is musical artists that come to my mind not just because I love their music, but because almost everything that we thought, idealized, loved, valued, hated or wanted changed as a generation, was written into the music, in fact it was the music. If the generation that created and listened to this music are now members of The Conservative Party under the rule of Stephen Harper and his regime, then B.B. King can't sing the blues. Two of the most important issues, anti-war and freedom that Harper and his government now violate are issues that boomers valued starting with their stand against war.

In the 60's Lester Pearson told President Johnson that Canada would not be supporting the US's war in Vietnam. Pearsons successor as everyone knows was Pierre Trudeau, who then opened Canada's doors to young Americans who did not want to fight in Vietnam. There were tens of thousands of them that came. Trudeau said " Canada should be a refuge from militarism." My how times have changed. Harper who supported the Iraq war and has committed us in joining with other nato allies to the air bombing of Iraq, will see to it that soldiers of conscience from the U.S. will not be able to seek sanctuary in Canada as they have been labeled "Criminally Inadmissable." Not one of the 30 to 50 war resisters who were already here and had applied for refugee status has received permanent residency in Canada. Most are in the process of or have already been deported back to the States. This is in spite of the fact that the majority of Canadians think we should allow war resisters including from the Iraq war into Canada, but when has the Harper regime ever done what the majority of Canadians want. This stand against war was reflected in songs like Dylans "Masters of War", John Lennon's " give peace a chance", Richie Havens "Handsome Johnny" , Steppenwolf "Draft Resister", Creedance Clearwater Revival "Fortunate Son" and Country Joe and the Fish "I'm- Fixin- to- Die- Rag." to name just a few of many, many, anti-war songs. It wasn't about just being against war but it was the expression of hope of a future without war.

Harper and his Regimes violation of our rights and freedoms is done through suppression, control and legislation. His definition of freedom of speech is " Freedom of Speech When I like what you Say." Scientists cannot speak freely, MP's from his cabinet and caucus cannot speak freely and pretty well anyone from his government cannot speak freely. Harper and his cronies do not always have an easy time of it though, trying to dismantle our democracy, because previous governments have created some strong infrastructures in support of freedom. Infrastuctures that were created by governments that believed in nation building. One of the most important infrastructures of course is The Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This originated from the mind of a man Pierre Trudeau, who thought throughout his life about justice and about how to create "The Just Society." All of Harpers legislation that has been struck down, simply because The Charter of Rights and Freedoms has judged this legislation to be unconstitutional. The Act and the man who thought of it Pierre Trudeau, both of whom Harper has an almost pathological hatred for has stopped him from carrying out his legislative authoritarian agenda. There are many ways however where he has been able to suppress freedoms or remove rights. Ways like setting up bipartisan commitees in almost all areas of government. Committees that should be discussing and evaluating the importance of motions, programs or policy pretty well just rubber stamp whatever is on their agenda that day.

No process. Dictators and their minions don't like process, especially judicial process. So much for freedom. There is nothing more important than freedom though. I knew that at a young age and I think many people from my generation knew it. When the concept of freedom is put to music it can give a voice to a movement. There is a reason why under Stalin, in the former Soviet Union, Russians were not allowed to listen to Jazz. It wasn't because of the race card either, it was because it made people feel alive. Songs of the 60's and 70's, with the message of freedom, had an impact on society and some of them broke new ground musically. Songs like "A change is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke, "Turn,Turn,Turn" by The Byrds, "One day we'll all be Free" by Donny Hathaway , "People Got to be Free" by The Rascals to name just a few songs that touched millions. These words of Phil Ochs are still true. "One good song with a message can bring a point more deeply, to more people, than a thousand rallies. I grew up in a culture that placed freedom at a high value.

I've given some thought to who those seniors that make up Harpers base are. Because I cannot take them serious politically, I think most, but not all are evangelical christians like Harper. That I think is the connection they have with him. Even though many of them are probably from the boomer generation, the music of their own generation, for the most part does not seem to have touched them. I don't think you're going to find any of them, as an example, listening to The Rolling Stones song "Sympathy For The Devil", or "The Future" by Leonard Cohen.Their dear leader though does seem to favor songs from that era particularly The Beatles. Like his inability to read how his behaviour is judged by the Canadian people, so he is not able to read how people judge his musical talent. Watching Netanyahu with his wife, both enduring forced smiles, when Harper sang and played piano at a state dinner in Jerusalem said it all to me. Harper sang before a room of people whose jewish compatriots contribution to music is nothing short of epic. Whether composers like Strauss, Mendelssohn, Mahler, Gerswin, Bernstein and copland, or Classical musicians like Andre' Previn, Itzhak Perlman and Isaac Stern including the more contempory artists like Carole King, bob Dylan, Mark Knoffler Don Fagen, Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, Simon and Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen and Billy Joel are but a few names in a list that could fill several pages. Singing and playing the piano at a family or friends wedding is one thing. Singing off key, while plunking on a piano at a state dinner when you're the PM of Canada is another thing. Unlike his tyrannical control of the message that he wants Canadians to hear or to not hear, his audience listening to him sing and play the piano cannot be controlled. This is Harper at his freest, displaying his questionable talent. Those who don't know him may think him quite brave considering he has minimal talent. For those who do know him it's just another example of him being completely out of touch. Seeing that he likes The Beatles so much he should read the lyrics to their song "The Fool On The Hill", because it's an apt description of himself , but as someone said of him, "he is a man to whom words don't mean much."

Pamela Mac Neil's main interest is studying how  ideas from philosophy and history shape politics.

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Truth in Advertising.

As Susan Delacourt of the Star said this week if you are sick of political advertising now wait until next year and she goes on to highlight a recent blog post by former Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber wherein he says “It is shameful how a supposedly conservative government wastes tax dollars on blatant, self- serving, political advertising.” In his scathing article Mr Rathgeber goes on to point out that the Harper Regime continues to boast of programs that have not passed through the legislative process are are not in fact in place and does so with half truths and outright lies.

It is shameful how a supposedly conservative government wastes tax dollars on blatant, self- serving, political advertising. These recent transgressions are in addition to the $5 Million Veterans Affairs is using to promote the laughable concept of how well Canada treats its veterans. Parliament amazingly voted an additional $21,400,000 Wednesday night for additional government advertising;” (Read the majority Con Regime voted themselves increased advertising budget)
He ends his article with this observation:-

Public funds should not be used to push an agenda that is still before Parliament and/or is a matter of partisan political debate. It undermines democracy when one side has near unlimited taxpayer resources to promote its side and agenda.
As the government’s spin doctors seem to prefer unfair advantage over respect for taxpayers, they are clearly unable to police themselves. Accordingly, Canada desperately needs an arm’s length overseer to ensure that government ads and websites are factual, informative and non-partisan.”
Indeed public funds should not be used for ANY advertising that does not specifically inform the public of program details and where to access them, and that includes spouting internet links to nebulous things like non existent “Economic Action Plans”!
Meanwhile Ms Delacurt has a few suggestions as to what needs to be done to kerb this abuse.
  • Any political party could announce, starting tomorrow, that it will adhere to the voluntary code of Advertising Standards Canada, which takes a dim view of ads that are intended only to knock down rivals. (Not that anything 'voluntary' would have any impact upon Harper and his cronies)
  • Requiring all government ads to be vetted by the auditor-general to make sure that the party in power is not using public resources to push a political message. (As does Ontario)
  • If we are now in a permanent election campaign, (which seems to be the case) then why can’t we have the same advertising rules for both the official and unofficial campaigns? Specifically, why can’t we have the same spending limits on political party advertising in non-election times too?
All these things have merit but until and unless the Harper Regime is tossed from power its all just a wet dream for they will, and have, go in exactly the opposite direction and continue to overwhelm and mislead the voters with millions of dollars of false advertising in order to ge reelected, much of it using taxpayers dollars. You will be able to tell those ads paid for by their 'supporters' by the personal attacks upon the opposition leaders contained in them!

Stephen Harper's government is being called out for spending what the Liberals say is $548 million of taxpayers' money for partisan advertising - just prior to the 2015 election. A long ad campaign about a jobs plan that doesn't exist; feel-good ads about Canada's 150th anniversary - still two full years away; a two-month ad campaign ending this month, showcasing tax breaks that can't be accessed until March or April; and $9 million for ads denouncing Canada's wireless cellphone companies. “

Just how effective are those Ads?
The latest annual study of consumer perceptions of advertising, released in November by Advertising Standards Canada, found that a whopping 80 per cent of Canadians were “uncomfortable” with political ads, with only 19 per cent of respondents giving a favourable impression of how true or accurate they were.

Will that stop the Cons from continuing their practice of inundating the public with false, misleading and self-serving advertising on our dollar (and false, misleading and self-serving attack ads using their partys well stocked coffers) in the upcoming months? Not a chance!

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Your Information is in the Mail

I see a Con MP is proposing to increase the $5 fee for an Access to Information Request which given what Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault says may at first seem like a reasonable idea.

"We need more investigators, and it is not my office that is in a crisis, it is the fact that Canadians' right to access government information is in jeopardy, that is the real issue," Legault said. "Because my office is underfunded to such an extent that we can't investigate their complaint in a timely manner, their rights are being thwarted." 

However as a number of observers have said not only is access to information a citizens right, it is essential in a democracy, and perhaps the problem is more the need for such a system due to the lack of information being freely shared by the current regime. Or more accurately deliberately hidden!  Then there is this.......

The commissioner said a bigger fee would not help with the financial problems she faces. Money from access to information fees currently goes to general revenues, not Legault's office.
Another effort to build that magical 'surplus' to be spent buying votes perhaps?

And talking of access to information here is another little detail I would like to know... Who paid for that fancy double sided, full colour, glossy, unaddressed, bulk mailed Christmas card from my local MP? Was it out of the MPs own pocket (LOL), his office budget (the taxpayer), the 'Queens Printers' (the taxpayer) or the did it come out of the Party coffers (not probable). Was it mailed under the 'free mail' privileges that MPs enjoy or was Canada Post paid separately (or at all) for bulk mail delivery? All I know that it came in a 'House of Commons' envelope and would have cost somewhere around $100,000 or more to print and distribute to all the households in this riding. If all our MPs did this thats around $50 million spent on Christmas greetings.....nice, but what a waste of money no matter who paid for it.

Here's a thought, every piece of mail from an MP, and in particular those printed or issued from the 'Queens printer” should contain the line “Printed by xxx and paid for by xxx” and and indicate if the mailing costs were picked up by the taxpayer with a 'stamp' showing if mailed under the parliamentary mailing privilege.

The House covers the cost of printing newsletters, commonly known as “householders”, sent by the Member to all constituents. Members have free mailing privileges to send out householders and other materials. [335]  These mailing privileges are often referred to as “franking” privileges. “Franking” is the process by which Members of the House of Commons, by affixing their signatures to an addressed piece of mail, may have that mail delivered postage-free anywhere in the country. It is available only for mail that is addressed to places in Canada and may not be used for parcels, special delivery or other special services offered by Canada Post. “

We know that this privilege has been abused in the past but few of us really know who is paying for what and exactly what is being classed as “a householder”, marking such mail with its source would make things 'open and accountable' so I don’t expect it would fly in Ottawa!

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Vitriolic nastiness does not breed respect.

Stephen Lewis , the former Ontario NDP leader, United Nations ambassador and lifelong human rights advocate recently took aim at the “pre-paleolithic Neanderthals” in office and their role in the decline of Parliament, the suppression of dissent, the plight of First Nations, their blinkered climate-change policy and our plummeting world status.
That his words have been picked up by numerous newspapers and bloggers this week makes it no less important that his assessment of the Harper Regime be repeated here, they are words that need repeating time and time again.

Lewis told the Symons Lecture on the future of confederation: that Canada’s world standing is in free fall, the Harper government’s contempt for Parliament and its traditions has degraded political life and fostered voter cynicism and that its attitude to aboriginals is not paternalistic, it is racist. Also that Harper’s refusal to join the rest of the world and move toward renewable energy sources is endangering future generations and contributing to a looming planetary meltdown and that civil society and the ideas it fosters have been slapped down and censored, subverting democratic norms.

In comparing the current atmosphere in Ottawa to that of the Ontario legislature when he served there during William Davis years he said that there was then a respect in that chamber and that it was fostered by the premier.

Vitriolic nastiness in debate does not breed respect, nor does adolescent partisanship, nor do pieces of legislation of encyclopedic length that hide contentious issues, nor does the sudden emergence of frenzied TV attack ads, nor does the spectre of a Prime Minister’s Office exercising authoritarian control.”Stephen Lewis

Another more recent politician who's scars from some of that “vitriolic nastiness” are still relatively fresh says that in his opinion there is no longer any expectation in politics of debating the message but just attacks upon the messenger

Michael Ignatieff says “I went into politics thinking that, if I made arguments in good faith, I’d get a hearing. It’s a reasonable assumption, but it’s wrong. In five and a half years in politics up north, no one really bothered to criticize my ideas, such as they were. It was never my message that was the issue. It was always the messenger.”
"They will not attack what you say, so much as your right to say anything at all.........

He goes on to praise those that still come to work every day in the face of such abuse, which in any other place would be subject to numerous allegations of personal defamation or workplace harassment.

The worst of them—the careerists and predators—you find in all professions. The best of them were a credit to democracy. They knew the difference between an adversary and an enemy, knew when to take half a loaf and when to insist on the whole bakery, knew when to trust their own judgment and when to listen to the people.
As I learned while watching wiser colleagues than I in a democratic legislature, it is really something in life to be utterly disabused about human motive, venality, capacity for double-crossing, and yet still come to work every day, trying to get something done.”

I start to wonder who would subject themselves to these working conditions and is this why we have so few honest, principled and truly dedicated MPs in the house. Unless you are one of those people, as Mr Ignatieff puts it, 'with outsized ambition, have a sense of vocation, a belief that something must be done, that you can make life better for a lot of people' why would you bother. Or is it just a place for those with an overblown desire for glory and fame?

Certainly the quality of the leadership, the respect for both democracy and opposing views, and in many cases the honesty of those charged with representing us in the Legislature seems to be diminishing daily. I can only hope that Stephen Lewis's 'possibility' becomes to pass – but somehow I dont see it happening any time soon, if ever!

Somewhere in my soul, I cherish the possibility of a return to a vibrant democracy, where equality is the watchword, where people of different ideological conviction have respect for each other, where policy is debated rather than demeaned, where the great issues of the day are given thoughtful consideration, where Canada’s place on the world stage is seen as principled and laudatory, where human rights for all is the emblem of a decent civilized society.” Stephen Lewis

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Electioneering on our Dime?

We all know that we are inundated with TV advertisements promoting the Harper “government” in the guise of telling citizens about their “plan” or some other “program” non of which actually tell the watcher anything that will help them actually access said programs. Does anyone actually go to that web page they promote? We now know how much they intend to spend (or more accurately how much they will admit to) and it is over $60 MILLION allotted thus far. This includes $10 million to advertise its annual “economic action plan,” $8 million to promote its “better jobs” program, $5 million promoting services to veterans and $5.5 million to combat illicit drug use and $7-million for the Canada 150 ad blitz Remember this is all for 'advertising' NOT programs or department bugets.
We also know that all departments other than the PMO have taken serious cuts in their annual budgets (and perhaps some of them did need to find “efficiencies”) but we now find out that the Harper regime has found a way to find even more money to try to buy off the voters in 2015. They simply have not authorized previously budgeted spending as it came up for final approval and then taken the “surplus” and stashed it back in their election goodies account.
Public Accounts documents reveal the Conservatives have held onto more than $7 billion in approved spending across a spectrum of departments. Since 2007-2008, the average amount that the government has underspent is 23 per cent of the allocated funds. Over the last three decades, the average was 2 per cent.

Public Accounts of Canada for 2013-2014 reveal for the third consecutive year, spending on military equipment, weapons systems and infrastructure declined significantly.
That spending is down roughly $1 billion from a high point of $3.8 billion in 2010-2011.
The documents show the government failed to spend $763 million of its allocated funding this past fiscal year for those types of large-scale initiatives even as Canada flexes its military muscle overseas.
Veterans groups are responding angrily to news that the federal department responsible for their care and benefits was unable to spend upwards of $1.1 billion of its budget over seven years. This while they had no trouble spending $4 million on ads last spring to promote what it's doing with veterans.
 Almost 14% of the money that Canada’s newly amalgamated Foreign Affairs Department planned to spend alleviating poverty in poor countries in the last year has been returned, unspent, to the Finance Department.
Foreign Affairs spent just shy of $792-million on aid to low-income countries in 2013-14, but had $917-million available, leaving more than $125-million in lapsed funding.
Canada’s national security agencies failed to spend hundreds of millions of dollars from their approved budgets last year even as some push for more cash in the wake of last month’s attack on Parliament Hill, according to a review by The Globe of recently released Public Accounts figures. 
It could be said that departments being frugal in spending our tax dollars is a good thing, but when many of the essential services that these departments are providing are being cut due to funding shortages and 'surpluses' are being spent on buying votes and barraging Canadians with useless self promoting advertising and telling us that the budget will be balanced just before the election then it must be questioned.
When the Liberals take power in the Fall I predict that they will find it is all smoke and mirrors, any 'surplus' will have been spent on shiny goodies and there will be a substantial deficit on the books. Its all part of the Harper Regimes plan to get reelected no matter what the cost, but if they are not elected to leave any new government with little room to undo all the damage done over the last ten years.
That may not have much to do with democracy but has a lot to do with the future of Canada and the return to a parliamentary democracy and a government that works FOR the people not for themselves.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Blind Obedience, the Tool of Tyrants

A guest post by Pamela Mac Neil

Here is how you're going to vote and here are your talking points”

On capital hill the above line is the kind of conversation, probably repeated many times, initiated by junior in the PMO's office, to Harpers backbenchers and various cabinet MP's. He/she may continue to say, the PM wants this bill passed at tomorrows question period and by the way, junior may add to the selected MP, usually a back bencher, the PM would also like you to ask this question in the House. Could the PM elaborate on "unconfirmed reports of a possible terrorist attack." There have been other scripted questions asked by various Conservative MP's that Harper has answered for the simple reason of manipulating the listening public to his agenda. This discourse usually precludes some policy or unconstitutional legislation he wants to enact. I'm sure that all departments come under Harpers thumb, but the two most troubling to me is Harpers Caucus and Cabinet. Harpers pursuit of power is not achieved, even if only some of the time, in isolation. His Caucus and Cabinet support that pursuit. They are his enablers. Caucus is supposed to hold the government to account, instead they follow orders abandoning their thinking and responsibility. The communications between the PMO and Harpers MP's has become a world of obedience and unity..

I've had a question that has bothered me for many years and I have answered it in part, but not in whole. The question is: Why do people in a free society obey? It's one thing for a person to obey in their personal life. It's another thing when people's obedience control the power of our democracy and in most cases, their decisions jeopardize the very freedom of our democracy, when these are the people who have been elected to protect our democracy. Why do MP's, some middle aged with alot of experience, obey a man like Harper. Part of the reason lies in the Evangelical Christian fundamentalists in Harpers caucus and cabinet. Anyone who's beliefs are completely lacking in any evidential proof and are accepted with unquestioning compliance, have shut down their minds and are in fact opposed to critical thinking. Being an Evangelical Christian does not require independent thought, but it does require obedience. What they call morals is simply blind obedience to commands. Obeying Harper is easy, because it's already a part of their identity. There are other reasons that MP's who are not religious or at the very least are not religious fundamentalists also obey, but how can any of these MP's not know that Harper is a dictatorial wanna be. This for me is what is so disturbing, that they do know that Harper is a tyrant and they still support his authoritarian agenda through their obedience. Why would free men and woman vote Canada into a dictatorship, ruled by a man whose total sense of worth is defined by how much power he has.

It is these MP's who in their support literally provide the power to Harper. They operate on one principle, obedience. They have given Harper the power to punish or reward them and our democracy is being destroyed so that MP's may have a chance to rise preferably to a cabinet post. They do not achieve success in their careers by merit, but rather by pull. Why does it not matter to these men and woman that they along with Harper, those we have entrusted with power, have perverted that power into tyranny. People who live under existing dictatorships obey out of fear, fear of imprisonment or death by the state. In a free society like Canada what are these MP's afraid of? What will happen to them if they choose to say no to Harper? Could it be that they are quite prepared to live in a dictatorship of there own making, under the rule of Harper? They cannot, not know, that with the present regime, that this is where Canada is heading. The power that these MP's are helping to create, if continued, will totally disempower the Canadian people. Power not supported by a nation is gotten through deceit, founded mainly in secrecy. Obedience to a political authority is voluntary slavery.

I watch from a distance because as a Canadian who is not a member of Stephen Harpers base even though I am one of the majority in Canada, I am not considered, nor am I included, along with the rest of the majority, as an integral part of the governmental process. Everything with Harper is at arms length, there are no close-up views. Regardless of the distance I have to remind myself that I am watching, almost daily, the govenment of the Canada, literally dismantling our democracy. I sometimes wish there was an alarm I could set off that would warn Canadians of the impending disaster. In the culture of Harpers government there is no negotiations, no discussions, only "grinding mediocrity" and conformity . It is a place where obedience is highly valued and bowed subservience is the position of the day. It is a place where thinking and confidence go to die. For the Canadian who is indifferent to this dictatorial power that is unfolding in our present government, I would suggest that you take a closer look at Harper and the people in his government, people who have targeted you as the enemy, so you will know how small, how mindless, how worthless, how insignifigant the people in this regime, those who you have sacrificed your freedom to, truly are, also you have not given away your freedom to a powerful, influential dynamic leader, but to a corner thug. Next year I will still be wondering ,in part anyway, why people in a free society obey, but I'd like to be able to add, but not the Canadian electorate in 2015. The Conservative MP's doctrine of blind obedience to Harper is a doctrine of despotism and has no place in Canadian society.

Below I have included several quotes from Pierre Trudeau purely for contrast.

"Let us overthrow the totems, break the taboo's, or better still, let us consider them cancelled. Coldly, let us be intelligent."

"I speak of a country where every person is free to fulfill himself or herself to the utmost, unhindered by the arbritrary actions of government."

"There is no such thing as a model or ideal Canadian. What would be more absurd than the concept of an "all Canadian" boy or girl? A society which emphasizes uniformity is one which creates intolerance and hate."

"The attainment of a just society is the cherished hope of civilized men."

Pamela Mac Neil's main interest is studying how  ideas from philosophy and history shape politics, particularly Canadian politics.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Stark Contrast.

I dont often comment upon the daily actions of politicians on this blog preferring to look at the broader picture of how their actions affect our democracy but one recent report realy got my attention in its stark contrast between a potential leader and the current one.
The way in which our 'leaders' interact with our local and national media, be they the press, television new outlets or simply citizen bloggers has much to do with democratic freedom and our need to know and understand what 'government' is doing on our behalf.

This item from Matt Guerin outlines the contrast.....
“As we know, Stephen Harper has such tight restrictions at his events, only card-carrying Conservatives with long party histories can get in.   No one except the most elite gets anywhere close to him.  And most definitely, uninvited guests or average Canadians get zero chance to interact with him, let alone speak to the crowd.   It's probably been almost 10 years since Harper had any meaningful and unscripted interactions with average Canadians who weren't pre-screened for party loyalty.”

He quotes from the CBC article
“Meanwhile, yesterday in Toronto at the Reference Library, Justin Trudeau was holding an event that was briefly interrupted by some protesters carrying a banner against the Energy East pipeline.  Trudeau may not share the protesters' position on the issue, but rather than ignore them and wait for RCMP to tackle them and remove them (to audience applause from Conservative party seals), Trudeau invited these Canadians to state their positions for all to hear and even called for the audience to applaud them.”

Now I can hear Harpers 'followers' saying that security concerns negate allowing 'protesters' to attend one of his public appearances and that may be true to a point. It does not however account for the accredited press being unable to ask any but 'approved' questions, and only 3 at that, on the rare occasions when such an appearance is not just a 'photo op' where no questions are permitted. It does not account for major announcements made with great fanfare (but no questions permitted) at staged and carefully choreographed 'events' or at some foreign event rather than in the House of Commons in front of his peers.

That many of these expensive staged 'events' are paid for out of the PMOs ever increasing 'advertizing' budget, i,e. Taxpayers money, adds further insult to his refusal to to be 'open and honest' with the press, the public, and even our elected representatives in the House. It is the outward symptom of a far greater malaise, one in which respect for any opinion but his own is missing, where parliamentary oversight is just an annoying itch to be ignored or smothered under bullshit.

It is in fact the outward signs of a want-to-be-dictator who insists upon total control over every piece of information issuing from not only the mouths of his herd of sheep but from all government departments, committees , researchers and diplomats. First control the message then control the people!

So I applaud Mr Trudeau in his effort to be open and available to the press and the public, it may lead to some difficult moments but the difference between hiding in the closet (both figuratively and literally) and standing proud before Canadian citizens is one to be encouraged and talked about.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Democracy and Freedom in Harperland

A guest post by Pamela Mac Neil
There have been Canadian Prime Ministers I have disliked and Prime Ministers whose ideas I have disagreed with. I have never however, with any of these Prime Ministers, worried about losing our democracy and consequently our freedom. That is until Stephen Harper as our PM was given a majority government in 2011. I knew what he was capable of before he got his majority, but I never worried as long as he had minority governments. When he got his majority, I took notice and proceeded to study him closely on a daily basis. I have concluded that he is a dictator in the making and as everyone knows a dictator needs a dictatorship, either by inheriting a country as an already fully formed dictatorship or creating the country he governs into a dictatorship.

I'll say it at the outset. Canada now has an Evangelical fundamentalist Right Wing Tyrant as it's Prime Minister. By opening the government to the religious right the new religious ideology comes from the increasing presence of evangelical christians in the capital. Harper has also allowed his evangelical christian MP's to be more vocal, letting them test public response with private member bills. Another spokesman for the christian right is Timothy Bloedow, the chief aide to Saskatchewan's MP Maurice Vellacott and owner of website Christian Governance.ca who openly calls for the establishment of a Christian Theocracy. As the PM sends his blessings to prayer rallies where evangelical christians holding on tightly to Canadian flags call for a bible-based theocracy , he now signs off his throne speeches with the blessing "God Bless Canada." While Harpers U.S. Senators and congressmen christian compatriots in the right wing Republican/tea-party are openly vocal about their evangelical christian beliefs, Harper tries to keep his beliefs under wraps. There's a very good reason for this. The majority of Canadians are profoundly uneasy about people of faith taking over the reigns of government. So like everything else Harper does, he tries to practice and align his evangelical beliefs with policy in secrecy.

With his ever growing enemies list of unions, scientists, environmentalist, First Nations people, certain charities, veterans and journalists, his number one enemy, the one at the top of his list is the Canadian people, i.e. Canadians that are not of his base, but are in fact the majority. These Canadians are his biggest threat. He does not communicate either through the press or directly with the majority of Canadians because he knows that we disagree with 99% of his programs, policies and legislation. He proceeds to shove these programs, policies and his unconstitutional legislation through for the benefit of his base, giving the rest of Canadians the finger. 99% of his legislation that the Supreme Court has struck down involves a violation of Canadian rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Now why would the Prime Minister of Canada create legislation that violates or takes away the rights and freedoms of Canadians, the very people that have given him a mandate to govern? Because he can!

Harper does not have a vision, he has an agenda, an authoritarian agenda. Stephen Harper does not hold ideas, he holds beliefs. Ideas are formed by integrating the knowledge derived from the facts of reality. Beliefs are assumed truths held by dogma and faith while avoiding the facts of reality. Science represents knowledge. Harpers muzzling of scientists and defunding of scientific research that does not support his political agenda prevents government scientists from communicating to the public their scientific findings. Scientists have also complained that they have been asked to exclude or alter technical information on government documents for political reasons. The majority of scientists have said that their ability to develop programs, policy and law based on scientific evidence has been compromised because of Harpers government political interference. The need of Harpers tight fisted control of any information resulting from scientific analysis is exercised through communication specialists within the government. They have enforced unity on messaging. That messaging is political not fact base. Imagine Harpers minions, some , maybe most evangelical christians marching to Harpers tune of controlling all scientific information and dictating this to the men and woman whose lifes work depends on evidence based scientific knowledge.

The threat to our democracy and freedom does not come from an external enemy such as ISIS or any other terrorist group, but rather internally from our authoritarian Prime Minister. This is a man who is systematically dismantling and usurping our various democratic institutions. The Harper government treats Parliament with complete contempt. Parliament whose constitutional duty is to hold the government and executive accountable, but the institutions of parliament like the House of Commons,the government caucus and Senate of Canada are completely under executive control. Nothing happens in parliament without the PMO's knowledge, approval or non-approval or direct command.

Harpers control and interference has radically changed the Canadian Parliament from serving crucial checks on government power to becoming a servile entity in carrying out Harpers authoritarian agenda. Along with this is Harpers corrupt and highly incompetent behaviour when implementing many policies like the F-35's, the Senate Scandal, Veteran Affairs, The grain transportation fiasco that has cost western farmers billions, The foreign workers debacle, The ridding of the long form consensus with Stat's Canada, The China Trade deal that violates Canadians rights, omnibus legislation, the unquestioned support of Israel's slaughter of Palestinians, the income-splitting tax break that benefits only 15% of Canadians, , the permanent campaigning, the unsubstantiated attack ads, the smear campaigns, real job loss since 2008, adding $176,400,000,000 to the national debt, on and on. We will be hearing more propaganda, spin and outright lying from him as we head toward the 2015 election. The dictatorial nature of Harpers ruling involves an in depth study, but it is a study in tyranny. I have just shown the tip of the iceberg, there is so much more to be said. Harper does not just want complete control of his caucus, he wants total obedience. This is also what he wants from Canadians. In 2015 if he gets another majority, the gloves are coming off! He will both tighten and expand his power and he will do it more openly. This dogmatic, mediocre, insignificant man wants to be the dictatorial leader of Canada!! Wake up Canada!!

Pamela Mac Neil's main interest is studying how  ideas from philosophy and history shape politics, particularly Canadian politics.

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Lest We Forget

Indeed we must not forget, not just the terrible toll that war takes upon those who engage in it both directly and indirectly but we must also not forget what the second world war was about and how it all started.

I must give a brief history lesson here of the period BEFORE the war in Europe which in my view is important to understand when talking about democracy as I do in this blog. It all started with one megalomaniac who was the leader of a political party and was elected to a MINORITY government in 1933, that he was arrested and found guilty of treason some 10 years earlier for an attempted coup did not reduce his popular support. Despite all the resources of big business and the state being thrown behind the Nazis' campaign to achieve saturation coverage all over Germany and “a combination of terror, repression and propaganda being mobilized in every... community, large and small, across the land." they did not gain a majority in the election. But they never the less managed to pass The Enabling Act giving them de-facto absolute power.. The Orwellian named "Law to Remedy the Distress of People and Reich" gave Hitler the power to enact laws without the involvement of the German legislature.

In his speech regarding this legislation Hitler said “By its decision to carry out the political and moral cleansing of our public life, the Government is creating and securing the conditions for a really deep and inner religious life. The advantages for the individual which may be derived from compromises with atheistic organizations do not compare in any way with the consequences which are visible in the destruction of our common religious and ethical values. The Government will treat all other denominations with objective and impartial justice. “ We all know how that worked out dont we!
It must be noted that prior to and during this 'vote' of the legislature the various opposition party members were either excluded or 'intimidated' by Hitlers 'followers'. The point here is that no matter how brought about Hitler was given the legal right to govern as a dictator by the very legislature that he superseded and once he had that power could pass 'laws' that suited his purpose without interference.

So as we think of those who fought and died , as some will say “for our democracy”, let us not forget how fragile that difficult to define but essential Canadian value is, and how quickly it can be subverted from within the very system it supports, and once passed how difficult it is to change laws that reduce the ability of legislators and citizens to keep a balance between citizen rights and state powers.

Lest We Forget.........

Why should we be aware of this possibility? These quotes from Lawrence Martin, new book Harperland: The Politics of Control give us a little insight......

Stephen Harper is probably the most dangerous human being ever elevated to power in Canada,” Farley Mowat

Parliament can hardly be weakened any more than it already is. Harper can’t go much further without making the institution dysfunctional. He is trying to control every aspect of House business. In fact, it will have to be returned to its former state by someone if we are to have a democracy.”
Former Commons Speaker Peter Milliken

Canadians are sleepwalking through dramatic social, economic and political changes surreptitiously being implemented by a government abusing omnibus bills and stifling public and parliamentary debate,” .........
Mr. Harper has not played within the rules. Having attained absolute power, he has absolutely abused that power to the maximum.”
Former information commissioner Robert Marleau

Then there is this from Peter H. Russell, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Toronto.

Since gaining a parliamentary majority, the Harper Government’s disdain for parliamentary democracy has become painfully evident. In a minority government situation that disdain was barely held in check. But in 2011, when our first-past-the-post system handed the Conservatives a parliamentary majority, the Conservative leadership was free to give full rein to its contempt for parliament.”

Constitutional expert Peter Russell

And finally this from Green Party Leader Elizabeth May in her book Who We Are: Reflections on My Life and Canada.

Our system is not supposed to look like a dictatorship. It does not involve central control by a prime minister's office. It does not involve non-stop partisan campaigning in a permanent state of heightened electoral warfare in the absence of governing. Democracy should look a lot like the people who elected their government.”

And this.....

We are on a slippery slope to the loss of our democracy, Power is now so concentrated in the Prime Minister’s Office and its unelected staff members that Canadian democracy already resembles a dictatorship punctuated by elections.”
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May

Lest We Forget.........

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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Casualty of War?

This week has seen a multitude of individuals expressing concern that the Harper Regime will use the so called “terrorist attack” upon parliament to further increase the ability of the RCMP and CSIS to investigate Canadian citizens whilst reducing the already minimal oversight over their activities.

There is little doubt that any country must protect its citizens, infrastructure and institutions from those who would use violence and destruction for whatever reason. To do so without restraints, without recourse for the accused or without checks upon those charged with this power is however very dangerous for our democracy, finding the right balance is the difficulty. It is to be hoped that a full and open debate in the House of Commons will take place on ANY changes proposed in reaction to this isolated event, that no closure upon said debate takes place and that the Con Regime does not use their majority to 'force' through flawed or inappropriate legislation as is their usual way of operating.

A few clips from various news articles in the past week perhaps put things in perspective......
As the government moves to strengthen the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, two of five chairs sit empty on the watchdog agency that oversees the spy service.

The Security Intelligence Review Committee says it faced "significant delays" in receiving requested documentation over the last year and had to press CSIS to obtain complete and consistent answers to several questions. In its annual report to Parliament, the review committee — which has a right to see all CSIS records — says it was "seriously misled" by the spy service in one complaint investigation.

Legislation just introduced proposes to “Allow the use of evidence gleaned from confidential sources without having to identify them in court proceedings, even to the judge.”
The proposed legislation amends the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, as well as the Access to Information Act and the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act.

Canada’s privacy watchdog believes police and national security agencies have sufficient powers to deal with the threat of domestic and international terrorism. Federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien opposes giving security agenices any more power, as "I think already many tools were provided to the police, including preventative arrests."

Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault pointed to an “information asymmetry” when it comes to national security measures — the government has all the relevant information, and Canadians are asked to approve of new measures without that information.

The Privacy and Information Commissioners of Canada call on the federal Government:

•To adopt an evidence-based approach as to the need for any new legislative  proposal granting additional powers for intelligence and law enforcement agencies;
•To engage Canadians in an open and transparent dialogue on whether new measures are required, and if so, on their nature, scope, and impact on rights and freedoms;
To ensure that effective oversight be included in any legislation establishing additional powers for intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Canadians both expect and are entitled to equal protection for their privacy and access rights and for their security. We must uphold these fundamental rights that lie at the heart of Canada’s democracy.”

Harper said. “....... more often than not, security and rights find themselves on the same side of the ledger and Canadians do not have effective rights unless we can ensure their security. And that is what we intend to do.”

As always Elizabeth May strikes the right ballance

All of us who work day to day with the guards from the House of Commons Security team will never take their presence for granted again. I do not believe the gunman can be described as a “terrorist.” It was the act of a deeply disturbed man with mental health issues and drug addictions. But while we should not associate the attack with the word “terrorism,” we should mark the heroic multiple acts of bravery that morning.

If Democracy is a casualty of the “war” on terror then the “terrorists” have already won.

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

.........Democracy Under Fire?

"The objective of these attacks was to instil fear and panic in our country, as I said yesterday, Canadians will not be intimidated. Here we are, in our seats, in our chamber, in the very heart of our democracy." Stephen Harper in the House of Commons Thursday October 23rd.

This phrase has been much in the headlines and repeated by many both inside and outside the halls of power and was much in evidence during the 'crisis' by news anchors and the like trying to fill in time whist they waited for real information to emerge. I take a little bit on an issue with this.

Parliament may be the symbolic home of our democracy but the true heart of democracy rests with the citizens across this vast country. It is entrusted in those individuals that we elect to protect and enhance it who meet in that place to hold the current government, no matter what particular flavor it currently enjoys, to account and to participate in the process of deciding upon the rules by which out society lives by. It is those citizens who make sure that they take the time to select those individuals who are placed before us as possible representatives every few years. It is within those that take notice of the debates and decisions emerging from 'that place' and make their views know as best they can to an ever less receptive group of politicians. The heart of a country’s democracy lays within its citizens, whether they look after it or not is another matter entirely.

NO the parliament building is NOT the heart of our democracy, if it burnt to the ground tomorrow would our democracy die? I sure hope not, and do not believe it would. It matters not WHERE our parliamentarian meet, it matter that they DO meet and that they are able to represent our views in an open forum where all such views are respected and taken into account. Such open debate is going to be of particular importance in the upcoming day and weeks as the above representatives consider what action to take to reduce the vulnerability of our important physical infrastructure to such incursion as happened Wednesday and to identify individuals with the mindset to do such things.

These nutcases are not necessary 'terrorists', just because they 'terrorized' parliamentary individuals, is that any different from gangs that 'terrorize' neighbourhoods in our large cities, randomly killing those that happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Are parliamentarians and their staff any different from a family living in a less than secure neighbourhood in Toronto? No, they are as Elizabeth May said in the House on Thursday "At a very basic level, we are nothing more than human beings who at a very fundamental level care for each other," and probably actually more secure that those living in some of those neighbourhoods, this is not to say that they should not be alert for those that would use force to make their views known.

All this brings me to the 'heart' of the matter which is given the events of Wednesday there must obviously be in increase in security of the Parliament Building and probably other such Federal and Provincial locations and finding a balance between security and public access will be difficult. The other side of the coin is the need to identify those who are inclined to use guns, bombs, physical force or destruction of property to make their point, or simply become infamous. These mentally 'challenged' people are not all 'terrorists', we know Harper thinks they can be environmentalists or almost any other group that opposes some of his dictatorial omnibus legislation. It is as both Ms May and MR Trudeau alluded to necessary that our legislators do not 'over react'.

“It is my profound wish that we remain calm, determine all the facts and not make any assumptions. Today is not a day that ‘changes everything.’ It is a day of tragedy. We must ensure we keep our responses proportionate to whatever threat remains.
This senseless, horrifying attack has shaken all of us who work in Parliament, but we stand together, strengthened in our resolve to uphold the values of peace and democracy upon which our country was founded.”
Elizabeth May

We will remember who we are.  We are proud democracy, a welcoming and peaceful nation and a country of open arms and open hearts.  We are a nation of fairness, of justice and of the rule of law.  We will not be intimidated into changing that.
If anything, these are the values and principles to which we must hold on even tighter.  Our dedication to democracy and to the institutions we have built is the foundation of our society and a continued belief in both will guide us correctly into the future.  Staying true to our values in a time of crisis will make us an example to the world.”
Justin Trudeau

I have not commented upon the specific incidences that took place on parliament hill here, there is more than enough opinion out there on that, as a blogger on democracy I do not believe that this incident, in and of its self, has much to do with our democracy, it is the reaction by government and others that will impact our democratic system, and our rights and freedoms.
I just know that if legislation to bring such measures as may be deemed necessary into force is not debated without closure being enforced, and is not supported by a majority of all parliamentarians, not just those enamoured with Stephen Harper and his war on terror, then it is no less an attack on democracy than that which some say occurred on Wednesday. The danger to democracy lays not with lone gunmen upset over the inability to get a passport but with those within government who constantly use the parliamentary system designed to protect democracy to erode it.

The danger is perhaps best highlighted by the Conservatives tabling of yet another Omnibus Budget (in this case running to 458 pages!) on the day after the normal House of Commons routine was disrupted by the above events. We can be almost certain that this too will be forced through the House with limited debate and total disregard for any amendments proposed by the opposition parties.

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Naturalists Targeted by Canada Revenue Agency

First they came for the environmentalists and the activists. Then they came for the scientists.
Then they came for those who fight poverty, and help the poor. Now they’ve come for the birdwatchers.

The Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists, a registered charity, is apparently at risk of breaking tax agency rules that limit so-called political or partisan activities. Earlier this year, tax auditors sent a letter to the 300-member group, warning about political material on the group's website. The stern missive says the group must take appropriate action as necessary "including refraining from undertaking any partisan activities," with the ominous warning that "this letter does not preclude any future audits."
The letter arrived just after the club had written directly to two federal cabinet ministers to complain about government-approved chemicals that damage bee colonies.
"You can piece together the timing," said Roger Suffling, a member of the group and an adjunct professor at the University of Waterloo. "The two things are very concurrent."

IF writing to a minister about a concern you or you group has about chemical use and environmental concerns trigger this kind of response, whether directed by the Minister or simply considered by the CRA as a political activity, then we are in big trouble. Perhaps all charities need to register as a political party who are exempt from such rules on political activity but can issue tax receipts and perhaps the CRA should be investigated for 'political activity'!

The Canada Revenue Agency launched a special program of so-called political activity audits after Budget 2012 provided $8 million for the project, later topped up to $13.4 million. Canada Revenue Agency officials say they do not target any one charitable sector, and are choosing groups impartially, without input from the minister's office.

They are 'choosing groups impartially' and yet a seemingly disproportionate of charities and groups who have openly voiced concerns about scientific and environmental issues have been 'targeted', but it would seem very few who are clearly very active on 'political issues' but are supportive of the Harper Regimes agenda have been threatened. Just a coincidence or just random luck, I don’t think so!

"Reminder letters” are issued to some groups to warn that Canada Revenue Agency analysts have been watching their political activities, and may launch full audits if things aren't rectified. So far, 23 such letters have been issued, including to the Kitchener-Waterloo group, though the agency won't say exactly which groups are on the list, citing the confidentiality provisions of the Income Tax Act.

Readers may visit the Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists web site and decide for themselves if this threat from the CRA was justified, I urge folks to support this and similar groups with both your moral support and your donation whilst you can still get a charitable tax receipt from any non profit organization who dares to question the ongoing attack by government decree upon science and the environment.

EDIT - Alison at Creeside shows exactly how selective these audits are

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

And so it starts......

The first volleys in the election war to come that is, we have our 'fearless leader' “protecting Canadians” by sending a few planes and a handful of personnel over to Iran to drop a few bombs on the terrorist hordes. We have the first of many more to come promises designed to buy your votes next year with an increase in the 'sports deduction' for kids and an indication of where the advertising campaign is going to go.
The Harper government is preparing to alter copyright law in Canada so politicians can use news footage and other journalistic content for attack ads and campaign spots without asking broadcasters or publishers for permission.
CTV News, citing a memo to cabinet, reported Wednesday night that the government has been working on a new “copyright exception for political advertising” that would be inserted into a budget implementation bill.
'Inserted into an OMNIBUS budget bill' that should probably read, what copyright provisions have to do with budget legislation is hard to say except that this would allow the use of large swaths of MSM news and opinion to be used without compensation.

The cabinet memo says the proposed copyright exception “would allow free use of ‘news’ content in political advertisements intended to promote or oppose a politician or political party, or a position on a related issue.”
Heritage Minister Shelly Glover had this to say.....
Major television networks should not have the ability to censor what can and cannot be broadcast to Canadians,’’ she said. “We believe that this has always been protected under the fair dealing provisions of the (copyright) law and if greater certainty is necessary, we will provide it.’’
Translation for those who do not understand Doublespeak
The networks should be forced to broadcast our daily serving of BS from the PMO but we reserve the right to use out of context clips of opposition leaders to produce personal attacks on them for said propaganda. The opposition will not be able to use similar clips of us as all public appearance by our leader and his followers are carefully scripted and no unscripted interactions with the press will be permitted.

Once again I expect this to go to the Supreme Court of Canada (as is the UnFair Elections Act) if it goes through, that is after all the ONLY recourse anyone has against this regimes ongoing war against Canadians of all kinds who are not on Harpers 'friends' list.

This past May, major broadcasters including CTV, CBC, Global and Rogers sent a letter to all federal and provincial parties serving notice that they would no longer “accept any political advertisement which uses our content without our express authorization.”
Any government which asserts unlimited access to the airwaves for propaganda purposes is more than into chronic copyright infringement. In some academic opinion, that could be seen as flirting with fascism.”

No doubt the opposition will ask questions about this in the House but getting an honest answer is like trying to squeeze toothpaste back in the tube. Rick Mercer summed it up nicely this week in his latest 'Rant”.

We have gotten to the point now where if you ask this government any question on any issue, domestic or international, they will tell you, "We stand with Israel.” You ask a cabinet minister directions to the closest washroom they will tell you, "We stand with Israel.” Which personally I believe does a disservice to Israel. But that is the situation we find ourselves in. 

He then has a suggestion as to how to proceed with replacing the Con Speaker with a less partisan face.....

May I suggest the job of Speaker, a job that comes with a minister's salary, a staff, a car, a driver, a house in the country where deer gambol on the lawn. Yes, they gambol. And we replace the Speaker with a bag of flour with a smiley face drawn on the front with a sharpie. What's the worst thing that could happen? Questions will go unanswered--rudeness will prevail.

Questions will go unanswered--rudeness will prevail ..... and democracy will continue to suffer until this Regime is removed from power!

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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Cabinet hides even more secrets.

A stealthy Treasury Board directive in the summer of 2013 required bureaucrats to ask departmental lawyers to decide what constitutes a secret, a decision that used to be made by the Privy Council Office, which oversees cabinet matters resulting in many more documents being exempted from Freedom of Information requests.
There is a growing list of seemingly routine reports, memos and documents caught up in an enhanced dragnet of so-called cabinet confidences. The Canadian Press has found dozens of cases from various departments in which reports, briefing materials and emails have been excluded entirely under Section 69 of the Access to Information Act, which gives officials the power to withhold records because they are meant to be seen only by the federal cabinet.

Suzanne Legault, the country's information commissioner is concerned about how wide-ranging the definition of a cabinet secret has become, especially since once the exclusion is declared, not even she can see the documents in question.
"When you look at the scope of the exclusion, it is extremely broad," Legault said.
"It's very, very broad. It basically catches anything that mentions a record that's a cabinet confidence. In my view, the actual scope of this does not respect fundamental tenets of freedom of information."
Once the exclusion is invoked, the records remain sealed off from public scrutiny for 20 years.

Kevin Page, the former Parliamentary Budget Officer points out that even before this change information was almost impossible to get and said the law needs a major overhaul.

"Under my time as the budget officer we were told on numerous occasions — from crime bills to elements of the government's economic forecast to departmental spending restraint plans (post budget 2012) — that Parliament (and the PBO) could not get access to information because it was a cabinet confidence," Page said.
"The stakes were high. The government was asking Parliament to vote on bills without relevant financial information and were hiding behind the veil of cabinet confidence. This undermined accountability for Parliament and the accountability of the public service."

Even those charged with representing 'we the people' cannot get the information they need to make informed decisions, such secrecy from an already oligarchical regime seems to be the next step towards dictatorship, it most certainly is another hit against democracy.

MPs and senators, who are subject to parliamentary privilege, have found their formal written inquiries — known as order paper questions — are also being run through the filter of cabinet confidence by the Privy Council Office.

Then we have the recent report that the normal process for selecting senators has been unilaterally 'suspended' and the process is 'under review' supposedly due to a few potential names being 'leaked'.

"An article by Sean Fine of the Globe and Mail dated May 23, 2014 purported to provide various details about the selection process, including the names of candidates being considered," he noted.
"As a result of this, the government chose not to constitute a selection panel, nor arrange for an ad hoc parliamentary committee for the appointment of J. Clement Gascon to the Supreme Court of Canada."

So once again the 'normal' parliamentary process has been ignored by the Harper Regime. Liberal MP Irwin Cotler who written question to Justice Minister Peter MacKay last June revealed this information had this to say:-

With another Supreme Court seat set to open up next month, he said, the government appears to have suspended the selection process entirely, at least as far as parliamentary involvement.
"They say it's 'under reconsideration,' and that it 'remains to be determined' what process will be used in future," Cotler noted.
"That means there's no process yet underway for a vacancy coming up in November."

Errol Mendes, a constitutional expert at the University of Ottawa had this to say.

"What I think is starting to happen now is the realization that they can basically shut down any democratic debate to anything that could be embarrassing to the government," "That is the way an authoritarian government behaves."


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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Rock Snot a State Secret?

Back in May of this year a reporter from The Canadian Press made a request to speak to Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientist Max Bothwell the recognized expert on Rock Snot (a single-celled algae that attaches to rocks on river bottoms) what followed can only be called bizarre. It most certainly shows exactly how far the Harper Regime has moved from their 'Open and Accountable' promise when they took power and reinforces what we already know about their perchance for suppressing information, particularly science information.
Having never received the requested interview the reporter filed an access to information request to see why not and recently received '110 pages of emails to and from 16 different federal government communications operatives' regarding this simple request for an interview!

Many hours after the request was made the morning of May 8, an email from Robin Browne, strategic communications advisor for the Communications Division of Environment Canada, contained a list of responses for the approval of David Boerner, director general for water science and technology in the ministry.
"CP asked to interview Max today but media relations is negotiating that to buy us more time. Thanks!" he wrote.

One might wonder why they needing more time to simply arrange an interview with a scientist about Rock Snot, it seems the answer to that is that nobody could come up with an 'approved script' for Max Borhwell (who knows this subject better than anyone else in Canada) to regurgitate.
In a frenzy of emails trying to find "approved" responses. It appeared they were not located, and approval had to begin from scratch.

Bothwell even tried to help things along "I will search my computer for the approved responses from the last interview," Bothwell wrote to a growing list of media handlers.
That unleashed a frenzy of emails trying to find the aforementioned "approved" responses. It appeared they were not located, and approval had to begin from scratch. The emails refer to "agreed answers" for the scientist and "approved interview script" throughout.
"Can we prepare answers to these questions please," Danny Kingsberry, acting manager of media relations, wrote. "I will get necessary approvals and we will schedule the interview after."

So the question becomes if a scientist cant answer questions about Rock Snot but must have 'approved scripts' for any interview what would be the response and how many individuals and departments would generate how much paperwork if we asked for information on, lets say, the muzzling of government employees and why such approvals are necessary?

No aspect of responsible government is more fundamental than having the trust of citizens. Canadians' faith in the institutions and practices of government has been eroded. This new government trusts in the Canadian people, and its goal is that Canadians will once again trust in their government. It is time for accountability. From the 2006 Throne Speech.

If being accountable means hiding information from the citizens so that they know not what is happening the the Harper Regime has succeeded in their mission.

Even more troubling is the news that even their own Members of Parliament cannot get information from certain departments. Recently Larry Miller MP for Grey-Bruce-Owen Sound requested “all information and details related to Claim (for portions of Sauble Beach) by Saugeen Ojibway Nation'.
“Miller says he has been trying for some time now to get more information from the department's lawyers and staff but so far he has heard nothing back. He says because the Department of Aboriginal affairs and Northern Development refuses to release any information to him or the Minister's office -- he wonders if they have something to hide.”

He goes on to say his next step, may be to file a freedom of information request!!

If a Minister in your own government has to file a FOI request to get information regarding an important issue within their own riding what does this say about say about the regimes respect for the parliamentary system, democracy and the public's right to information. Being the Conservative that he is Mr Miller blames the bureaucrats for the problem, I would suggest MR Miller that said Government employees are doing EXACTLY what they are told to do by the PMO. Perhaps its time you opened your eyes and realized that the sun does not shine out of Harpers arse and encourage you colleagues to turf this guy and return to a parliamentary democracy.

Oh and this may be of interest whereby all communications regarding the finding of one of Franklins ships was suspended until King Harper could announce it himself, the only real surprise there was that he actually made the announcement whilst in Canada!

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

MPs Obstructed, Undermined and Impeded!

Recently Green Party Leader Elizabeth May spoke to her fellow MP's and the Speaker of The House regarding the governments ever increasing practice of limiting debate upon important legislation before The House. She contends that the rights of her and her colleagues in parliament have been “obstructed, undermined and impeded” and that “constituents are deprived of their right to have their concerns adequately voiced in the House” by this practice. It is hard to disagree with that assessment.

What follows are a few extracts from her presentation which I recommend you read in full and may be viewed on her MP Web Site.

I am rising at my first opportunity on this question of privilege, given that between the Speech from the Throne in October and when we adjourned June 20, there had been 21 occasions on which closure of debate occurred, and I maintain that the exercise of my rights and the rights of my colleagues in this place have been obstructed, undermined and impeded by the unprecedented use of time allocations in the second session of the 41st Parliament.”

The purpose of us being here as parliamentarians is to hold the government to account. It is obvious that no legislative assembly would be able to discharge its duties with efficiency or to assure its independence and dignity unless it had adequate powers to protect itself, its members, and its officials in the exercise of these functions.”

It is therefore a fundamental principle of Westminster parliamentary democracy that the most important role of members of Parliament, and in fact a constitutional right and responsibility for us as members, is to hold the government to account.
The events in this House that we witnessed before we adjourned on June 20, 2014, clearly demonstrate that the House and its members have been deprived of fulfilling constitutional rights, our privilege, and our obligation to hold the government to account, because of the imposition of intemperate and unrestrained guillotine measures in reference to a number of bills. Over 21 times, closure has been used.”

As speaking time that is allotted to members of small parties and independents is placed late in the debates, we quite often are not able to address these measures in the House. This would be fair if we always reached the point in the debate where independents were recognized, but that does not happen with closure of debates. My constituents are deprived of their right to have their concerns adequately voiced in the House.
Political parties are not even referenced in our constitution, and I regard the excessive power of political parties over processes in this place, in general, to deprive constituents of equal representation in the House of Commons. However, under the circumstances, the additional closure on debate particularly disadvantages those constituents whose members of Parliament are not with one of the larger parties.”

In order to hold the government to account, we require the ability and the freedom to speak in the House without being trammelled and without measures that undermine the member’s ability to fulfill his or her parliamentary function.”

To hold the government to account is the raison d’être of Parliament. It is not only a right and privilege of members and of this House, but a duty of Parliament and its members to hold the government to account for the conduct of the nation’s business. Holding the government to account is the essence of why we are here. It is a constitutional function.”

Denying the members’ rights and privileges to hold the government to account is an unacceptable and unparliamentary diminishment of both the raison d’être of Parliament and of the Speaker’s function and role in protecting the privileges of all members of this House.
In conclusion, I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that the intemperate and unrestrained use of time allocation by this government constitutes a prima facie breach of privilege of all members of this House, especially those who are independents or, such as myself, representatives of one of the parties with fewer than 12 members.”

Indeed, if any of those whom we elect to represent our interests in The House are denied the opportunity to speak to a piece of legislation then the very basis of our Parliamentary Democracy is substantially diminished.
Cross posted at Bruce Grey Owen Sound Greens

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