A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Harper History, Part 5A - Information witheld , Omnibus Budget

Mar 2010 – June 2010

If the period before the second prorogation of Parliament was deemed “dysfunctional” the period from when parliament returned in March and the following 12 months till the 2011 election should be classed as totally without any redeeming features. It includes an ongoing and never-ending series of efforts by the Harper regime to control or suppress information about or from government departments, the g20 spending fiasco, the 2010 800+ page omnibus budget that amongst other things killed many environmental protection regulations, and doing away with reliable census returns. The liberals in opposition did little to oppose such legislation for fear of bringing about an early election, some say due to almost one third of their caucus being up for pensions if hung in till the end of the year.
I hope readers will forgive me for linking to many of my previous posts for this period where many links to further information is available, the volume of hits against parliamentary democracy during this period is almost overwhelming!

Parliament returned from 2 month long prorogation on 3 mar 2010

March 2010 - Canada's new Access to Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault is investigating allegations of systemic violations of Access to Information laws by federal Conservatives with staffers aledging that during morning conferances the PMO's issues management wing would routinely give "verbal directions on slowing down, delaying, stopping ATIPs altogether or 'transferring' ATIPs to the centre." Staffers who questioned or resisted orders to interfere with the ATI system, the staffer said, faced verbal abuse and thinly veiled threats against themselves and their ministers, the source recounted.
In his year end report before he resigned former ATA commissioner Mr Marleau said about the failure to update the ATI system-
How much longer will Parliament stand by and tolerate this pervasive neglect and the attrition of a fundamental democratic right? “

Despite it being on of the major items of conflict in the 2008 parliamentary session no sooner than parliament had returned when PMO press secretary Dimitri Soudas confirmed that eliminating the subsidy, the $1.75 which political parties receive for each vote they garner during federal elections, would be part of the Conservatives' next election campaign platform.

In April - Interim information commissioner Suzanne Legault urged government agencies to take "immediate steps" to curb the persistent foot-dragging she detailed Tuesday in a special report to Parliament regarding Access to Information requests.
“Federal delays in answering queries from the public are getting worse and threaten to scuttle the right to know” she said.

On April 27th Regarding the ongoing stonewalling by the Harper regime to provide documents about Afghan prisoners to parliament Speaker Milliken ruled that:-
“…accepting an unconditional authority of the executive to censor the information provided to Parliament would in fact jeopardize the very separation of powers that is purported to lie at the heart of our parliamentary system and the independence of its constituent parts.” and that The insinuation that Members of Parliament cannot be trusted with the very information that they may well require to act on behalf of Canadians runs contrary to the inherent trust that Canadians have placed in their elected officials “
Further that “in a system of responsible government, the fundamental right of the house of commons to hold the government to account for its actions is an indisputable privilege and, in fact, an obligation.”

For further information on this item please see Democracy Returns?

On March 4, 2010 Harper tabled his omnibus budget bill, a behemoth 880 page document covering hundreds of non budgetary items. Under the urging of the Harper Regime parliamentarians not only failed to split the non budgetary items off but spent an average of less than 30 seconds per clause in “debating” the merits of this legislation. Some of the incidental aspects of the bill eviscerated the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act
In 1994 Harper argued in referring to the Liberal 21 page budget that “the subject matter of the bill is so diverse that a single vote on the content would put members in conflict with their own principles.” Yet in 2010 his budget ran to an unprecedented 880 pages long and contained 2,200 sections. All efforts to split non budgetary items from this bill were rejected.

By May It was getting increasingly difficult to get any information out of the 'government' and David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen found this Harper quote from 5 years earlier:-
Information is the lifeblood of a democracy. Without adequate access to key information about government policies and programs, citizens and parliamentarians cannot make informed decisions, and incompetent and corrupt governance can be hidden under a cloak of secrecy.” He goes on to say that if Harper truly believes that then we can only assume that his aim is to create an “incompetent or corrupt government” and ensure that “parliamentarians cannot make informed decisions” for getting information from the Harper Regime is a bloody ordeal! This sums up the general feeling of many of us at the time.

In June Having just reached an agreement to work together behind closed doors in deciding what secret information related to Canada’s treatment of Afghan detainees can be released to the public the Conservative cabinet decided to ban its political staffers from appearing as witnesses before committees. This once again set of further acrimony between the government and the opposition and further blocked the committees efforts to investigate the allegations.

Finally on 22 June 2011 almost a year after the special committee was formed and over 2 years since the issue first came to light approximately 4,000 documents were released by the government however an estimated 36,000 pages still were not released in a less-redacted form.
The 'games' continued through June with “Two government officials playing cat-and-mouse with a Commons committee bailiff trying to serve them a summons. MPs at the ethics committee are hearing how Prime Minister Stephen Harper's director of communications, and another political aide, did not return repeated calls from the bailiff over two days. The bailiff also told the committee clerk that he had shown up at their government offices, but was barred entry and could not deliver the summons.”
For more on this please see Delay, Obstruct & Spin and More Contempt

Due to the amount of Contempt for Democracy to be detailed during this period covering the last half of this Harper minority government it has been split into two sections. The second half covering the G20 fiasco, the killing of the climate bill and the lead up to the election will be published in the near future.

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Unknown said...

It's amazing Rural how much control and violations of democracy took place while the CONs had a MINORITY Government. The opposition and MSM obviously didn't care. I guess freedom is not an important value, worth defending.

Rural said...

And it get MUCH more scary after 2011 Pamela, I do not look forward to reviewing that period but feel I must put this information before my readers.