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, May 31, 2015

Buying Your Vote

Rumours circulating that Harper will extend the official campaign period by calling the election early may well have some merit given that his “Fair” Election Act specifically allows more spending on advertising during such extended period.
The Fair Elections Act also increases election spending for political parties, candidates and nomination contestants. Using last election’s numbers, it would mean slightly more than $1 million for each political party that runs candidates in each riding ($0.735 for every elector instead of $0.70)
But the real change is that election expenses, which used to be capped for the entire campaign period, will now increase by $650,000 each day after the normal 36-day writ.
And who gets to decide how long the election lasts? That would be the government, currently the Conservative Party of Canada.

Remember that for every dollar spend DURING an election period political parties receive a 50% rebate paid for out of our tax dollars. They will however no longer receive any monies based upon the number of votes they receive. That sloping “level playing field” has now turned into a mountain slope!

Based on projections from the 2011 election expense limits, the party spending limit for a minimum 37-day campaign on Oct. 19, 2015, would be roughly $22-million for parties that run candidates in all 338 ridings.
A decision to issue election writs at the end of August rather than in mid-September would give parties with the means the ability to spend at least $8-million more during the writ period for this election for expenses that would qualify for a 50 per cent reimbursement from Elections Canada........
Campaign advertising prior to the election period would not qualify for the reimbursement from taxpayers, but would follow closely on the heels of a multi-million-dollar ad campaign the Finance Department placed, with the direct approval of Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) and his Cabinet, to run from May 4 until Sunday, Aug. 4.
Monies spent before the writ is dropped are not eligible for taxpayer refunds however the Harper regimes ongoing expenditures of tax payers cash for his self serving advertizing and spin machine from various government departments is 100% paid for by us, not the Conservative party.

How big is the propaganda machine? Well, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation reported last year the government employs no fewer than 3,300 communications staffers whose primary function is to make the government look good. The cost to taxpayers is $263 million a year.

The total number of journalists in the press gallery — your independent watchdogs on government — is less than 300. And no newspaper, television network or other Canadian media outfit has anything like the funds the government has available to manufacture propaganda. With these vast resources, the government had every reason to believe it could pull a fast one . . .

The last figures available for total advertising expenditures show around $100 Million per year was spent, you may be sure that the 2015 figures will be considerably higher than that.

Internal documents show Finance Canada is planning a $7.5-million ad campaign that will run in May.
The campaign will illustrate how the [Economic Action Plan] is on track to positioning Canada for success in the 21st century global economy through a series of measures,” states a Public Works document.........
Last year, Finance spent $7.5-million on Economic Action Plan ads, and other departments ran similar campaigns. Employment and Social Development spent $7-million on a skills initiative campaign, and the Canada Revenue Agency spent $6-million last year on ads
Many of the ad promote measures not yet legislated or proposed for some time in the distant future and only after opposition outcry were words to that effect added to the end of the ads. Almost daily more “proposals” are being promised to naive voters who are misled into believing that these things will actually happen if only they vote for the Harper Regime. The only promise thus far kept appears to be that promise attributed to Mr Harper in 2006 that says “you wont recognize Canada when I am done with it

Its interesting to note that one of the most effective tools to fight this massively funded media blitz is social media which cost almost nothing. One very effective response to the recent attack on the Liberal leader can be see here

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Debate Debate Redux

The federal Conservative Party says it won’t participate in the traditional leaders’ debates run by a consortium of broadcasters.........
They are however pushing for a number of “independently staged debates” where the format can “allow more time for one-on-one debate between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau”. Apparently the NDP and Greens have no place in their plans to control the debates, however the New Democrats said they have also accepted TVA’s and Maclean’s debate invites but there is no mention of the GPC in this article.

Seems rather convenient that just as the 'consortium' decided to include Elizabeth May that the Conservatives ditches the idea of debates sponsored by the major TV networks.

We have received debate proposals from a variety of print and broadcast media, as well as other organizations. We believe the diversity and innovation inherent in different debate sponsors and approaches is valuable,” Conservative campaign spokesman Kory Teneycke said.
Therefore we have decided to decline the proposal from the broadcast consortium for four debates, which for practical purposes would effectively exclude other media and organizations capable of hosting debates of this nature.”
Unsaid here is 'we feel we can better control the debate when negotiating with smaller organizations, allow Mr Harper to use crib notes and limit who participates and how long they get to speak.'

Mr. Teneycke, now a communications official with the Conservative Party, is a former senior executive with the Sun News Network, a now-defunct media outlet that made no secret of its distaste for CBC, the taxpayer-funded broadcaster.

The consortium, including the CBC, has been in charge of federal election debates for decades, but parties have sometimes chafed over the format dictated by the broadcasters.

Whilst I did not agree with the consortium’s exclusion of Ms May during the last election debates I do think that their adherence and insistence on a formal set of rules so ably overseen by moderator Steve Pakin made it fair and equal for all participants. It remains to be seen if these new proposals will meet that standard but I suspect this is purely and effort to gain advantage by controlling the rules and the narrative.
The Green Party of Canada believes that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and all national party leaders have an obligation to debate in a proven format that is easily accessible to all Canadians, including our seniors, our youth, and those living in rural and remote regions of Canada.” They have however have accepted the offer for a federal debate from Maclean’s and are reviewing others.  We believe more debates, in both traditional and new media formats, are better for Canadians.
Indeed many rural and less affluent Canadians do not have the unlimited high speed connections necessary to view on line streaming video (this writer being one of them). I have no problem with such debates being carried on a variety on mediums however I do think an effort to make them available to ALL Canadians must be made and I am not sure that the print media thus far chosen by Harper without any consultation with other partys will achieve this or be moderated in as non partisan a manner as previous debates.
The Conservatives have emphasized that they would like to participate in debates on different media, since Canadians are consuming current affairs on different platforms...............
Adding to number of debates also deadens impact of any one debate/slip up.” (read, “I can change my lies and spin in the next one to suit”)
By choosing to outright decline the national broadcaster’s proposal of four debates in both official languages, Stephen Harper is clearly trying to fragment the audience and create a debate free-for-all that will not benefit voters.  Once Canadians understand the true motivation of the Conservatives, they will be outraged.
It was announced Thursday that the consortium debates (1 in English and 1 in French) will go ahead with or without Stephen Harper’s participation and that NDP, Greens, Liberals and the Bloc will participate!
If indeed there are 5 (or more) additional debates (several well prior to the election period) I doubt that all news networks will broadcast all debates uninterrupted or in full given that it cost them millions in lost advertising revenue. I am not sure that this is not a good thing, my tolerance for BS, lies and spin is becoming very limited as we close in on the time to make some very tough but Nation Changing decisions.

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Harper History, Part 5B - G20, Census Axed, Contempt.

June 2010 – Mar 2011

In this the second half of part 5 of the ongoing Harper History series intended to remind our citizens exactly how little respect the Harper Regime has for our Democracy we touch upon the G20 fiasco, the killing of the census and the inability of the PBO to get information as to how the 'stimulus' funds were spent. Parliament continued to be 'dysfunctional' with the opposition seeming unable to hold Harper to account despite his refusal to release the information necessary for them to make informed decisions for fear of precipitating an election they were not prepared for, whist Harper almost daily dared them to do so.

On 26-& 27 June 2010 Harper hosted the G20 Leaders Summit in Toronto and had been under fire for months for the avalanche of funding around the Muskoka region where the leader were to be accommodated. It was revealed that besides the $50 million in G8 summit funds, Ottawa had funnelled another $50 million into the riding held by Industry minister Tony Clements in the past few years.
With summits in London, England and Pittsburgh, USA costing $30 million and $12.2 million (US) respectively the bill for this summit held whilst Canada was still in deep recession was estimated at $1.1 BILLION. Extravagant expenditures included the construction of a 'fake lake' just meters from the real Lake Ontario and $274,850 for a bandshell and new public washrooms in Baysville, 31 kms from the summit site.

Thousands of people gathered in Toronto to protest the summit and when a handfull of 'anarchists' destroyed property and smashed windows on the first day whilst police stood by and watched hundreds of peaceful demonstrators were illegally arrested and detained on the second day. It has never been revealed who authorized these arrests and no senior officers have been held to account. It remains unclear exactly who was realty in control of the 'security operation. The area where the leaders actually met in downtown Toronto was declared a security zone and laws were quietly changed to make it illegal to approach the area.
For more on the security zone see On that controversial “regulation”

On July 12 2010 The Conservative government defeated changes the Liberals and three of the four independents wanted in the Budget by a vote of 48 to 44. Seven Liberal senators failed to show up to vote giving Harper's Conservatives the slight majority. The 800+ page budget sailed through unscathed thus avoiding (for now) a showdown in the House of Commons and a possible election call.
Also in July the Long form census eliminated and the Canadian Press learned that “Employees were told a little over a year ago that there would be less emphasis on analysis. A highly praised survey on immigrants to Canada, for example, has been axed. Other analytical jobs, in areas such as business and trade statistics, and the aging population, have been eliminated.”

In August Munir Sheikh, the head of Statistics Canada, announced his resignation over this issue saying "I want to take this opportunity to comment on a technical statistical issue which has become the subject of media discussion. This relates to the question of whether a voluntary survey can become a substitute for a mandatory census,"
"It cannot," he said. "Under the circumstances, I have tendered my resignation to the prime minister."
For more on this please see Letter to the Prime-minister.
By this time numerous other key personnel had quit, been fired or been forced out of their government positions.
Also In August Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page reported that he could not tell with any accuracy how or indeed if all the Economic Action Plan funds had been spent saying it is impossible to draw authoritative conclusions about the program performance at this time. Parliamentary monitoring of program performance would be better served by a more consistent reporting regime, with appropriate incentives to ensure timely and accurate progress reporting.” For more on this see One to watch

On Oct 12 2010 , The Conservatives further demonstrated their contempt for Parliament by delivering their 'Economic Update' not in parliament but at a carefully staged and expensive special event in Mississauga this while parliament was recessed and the country was still deep in recession and they were preaching 'fiscal restraint'. This practice of making major announcements traditionally first revealed in parliament before their peers was to become the 'norm' for Harper who rarely if ever spoke publicly except in carefully controlled and stage managed events.

In November it was revealed that Conservative Senators were quietly using taxpayer-funded literature to target opposition ridings with a partisan crime message as the party gears up for the next election.

On November 16th In a late night surprise vote and without any debate the Conservatives used their clout in the Senate stacked by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to kill an NDP climate change bill that was passed by a majority of the House of Commons. The absence of more than 15 Liberals from the Senate for the surprise vote allowed the bill to be defeated. This was the first time in at least 70 years that the Senate has killed legislation from the Commons without a hearing, according to parliamentary experts.Harper then told the Commons that the bill which established greenhouse gas emissions targets for a period beyond that mandated by the Kyoto Protocol that it was “a completely irresponsible bill.” For more on this see Senate Shananikins.
During Oct & Nov 2010 the first official government announcements show up with titles proclaiming “The Harper Government” rather than the correct “The Government of Canada”. A few months later this was proclaimed by the regime to be the way all such documents should be titled. During this entire period thousands of dollars were spent bombarding us with those “Economic Action Plan” ads that told us nothing but promoted the Harper Regime on almost a daily basis.

In January 2011 and with the probability of an election in the near future and speculation about a coalition in the news Gov. Gen. David Johnston was busy brushing up on constitutional rules and said that “he sees nothing wrong or illegitimate with coalition governments and recognizes that “any governor general who has that role in a constitutional system like ours, from time to time will be confronted with questions where there is an element of discretion,”
However Liberal leader Micheal Ignatieff had been unequivocal in his rejection of a coalition and thus played right into Harper’s framing of a coalition as illegitimate and this may well have had some effect on the election to come.

In February Green Party Leader Elizabeth May clearly voiced the concerns that a number of noted historians and constitutional experts also said when she wrote:-
I am no fan of hyperbole. The notion that democracy in a safe, successful, wealthy country like Canada, constitutionally dedicated to “peace, order, and good government,” could be “in peril” may strike some readers as over the top. Nevertheless, there is a power struggle in Ottawa that, in earlier days, could have been viewed as a constitutional crisis. ” Some constitutional experts were wondering out loud if our prime minister should be referred to as “King Stephen I of Canada.”.
Also in February PBO officer Kevin Page in his appearance before the Commons Finance Committee when he appeared before committee Tuesday said that in his 25 years in the public service, no government has used the umbrella of “cabinet confidence” to hide tax data or justice legislation costs, and reiterated that this lack of data means that Parliamentarians are losing their control over the finances of the nation.
There is genuine concern that Parliament is losing control of its fiduciary responsibilities of approving financial authorities of public monies as afforded in the Constitution. In the recent past, Parliament was asked to approve changes to crime legislation without financial information or knowledge of monies set aside in the fiscal framework. “
For more on these two items and similar opinion please see Democracy in Peril?
On February 24, 2011, 4 senior Conservative Party members were charged in the In and Out Scandal under the Elections Canada Act with overspending over $1 million in the 2006 election including allegations that Conservative election expense documents submitted to Elections Canada were "false or misleading" and attempted to fraudulently gain almost $1 million in refunds from taxpayers. Over a year later the charges were dropped as part of a plea deal which saw the Conservative Party plead guilty over the 'In and Out' scandal, agreeing to repay $230,198.00 (or less than 25% of the moneys obtained by the fraud) for its role in the scheme.

On March 9th, 2011, the Harper administration was found to be in contempt of Canadian parliament for for its ongoing refusal to meet opposition requests for details of proposed bills and their cost estimates. This was the first time in the history of any commonwealth government that this had happened. Errol Mendes, a University of Ottawa professor and constitutional expert had said this before the committee requesting the documents:-
"The executive is really placing itself above Parliament. For the first time that I know in Canadian history, the executive is saying we are superior to Parliament,"
"This is nothing more than an open defiance of Parliament. Nothing more, nothing less," he said. "The refusal to release the uncensored documents is a violation of the Canadian Constitution. This is the equivalent to a defiance of a judicial subpoena,"
On March 25th, 2011, The Speaker of the House of Commons having ruled three times that "the Harper government" appeared to breach parliamentary privilege and the Harper administration being found to be in contempt of Canadian parliament for its refusal to share information that opposition members said they needed to properly assess legislation put before them a vote of non confidence was held which was supported by all opposition parties resulting in the government falling and an election being called..

Early Friday afternoon, 156 opposition MPs – all of the Liberals, New Democrats and Bloquistes present in the House of Commons – rose to support a motion of no-confidence.
It was also a motion that declared the government to be in contempt of Parliament for its refusal to share information that opposition members said they needed to properly assess legislation put before them.

This was not the first nor was it to be the last instance of the Harper Regime showing its utter contempt for our Parliamentary Democracy rules and conventions. We were about to see their contempt for election rules and for Elections Canada, the arms length body charged with ensuring that our election were untainted by illegal activities.

The 2011 election and the controversy around election fraud and robo-calls will be covered separately in the next article.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015


The following is presented as a service to my local Greens

The Annual General Meeting of the Bruce-Grey Owen Sound Green Party of Canada Electoral District Association will be held Thursday, May 21, 2015 at 7:00 pm at the Williamsford Mill Book Store & Cafe, 316070 Highway 6, Williamsford, ON.

A new executive is elected at the AGM. Nominations will be taken from the floor for the positions of President (CEO), Chief Financial Officer and other executive positions. The meeting is open to all Green supporters and to the general public. Green Party of Canada memberships will be available and volunteers with Green thoughts are urgently needed to support the party through the coming election and beyond.

For more information: http://www.bgosgreens.ca/

I am reliably informed that they are having difficulty in finding individuals willing to stand on the Executive which perhaps highlights how small a percentage of voters actually join and get involved in the decision making process within political parties. Even one like the Greens where all members can impact policy issues and party governance directly by online voting upon such issues appear to have low participation at the grass roots level.

Elections Canada requires that an Electoral District Association register its CEO and CFO by May 31st each year, failure to do so results in de-registration of the EDA, the process for registration of a new EDA is somewhat complicated and time consuming so it is important for local associations to get the information to Elections Canada before the end of this month.

Whilst some parties in some areas do better than others I have always thought that communicating information about their activities and retaining members BETWEEN election periods seems to be one of the difficulties in getting folks to become involved at election time. Whilst the primary objective of an EDA is to select and support a candidate for that area they must have a core group willing and able to identify folks to assist, be it with money or time, during said election period. It is often difficult to keep folks motivated and actively involved over the four years where their supportive role takes a back seat to more mundane activities. Those that are more visible over this period and are able to keep their parties local activities and views before the public on a regular basis will probably have more success than those who fade into the background between elections.

Why not check out your local District Association.

The BGOS Greens web site can be found here. BGOS Greens

A list of all contact information for GPC district Associations can be found here.

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Like Lemmings off a Cliff

Canadians who have been taking notice will be aware that C51, the police state law, has past 3rd reading in the house and now goes before the Senate for final reading. It will come as no surprise that the Conservatives vote en-block for the bill for even if some of them had actually read the bill and had reservations they dare not vote except as directed by the PMO if they wished to remain in caucus. It is not surprising that the NDP all voted against this deeply flawed bill for it hard to see how any who care about individual freedoms could vote for it, whether or not they were directed to vote thus is unknown.

What I find mind blowing is that the Liberal vote en-block FOR the bill, we know that they are afraid of being branded pro-terrorist by the Con spin machine but how is it that not one, not a single Liberal MP. voted against this legislation, are they also in fear of loosing their jobs if they actually use their own brains and vote as their conscience dictates. One would think at least some of these MPs had sufficient concerns about this bill and its lack of oversight provisions to vote against it, but not apparently enough to challenge the group think!

It is this group think that I want to bring to your attention in this post, it is of course nothing new, it is in fact standard practice. If one looks at how they vote on the fine website openparliament.ca you will be hard put to find a piece of legislation where our MPs actually vote as individuals not as directed by their party whip. This to me highlights one of the problem with our current parliamentary system, the political partys have too much power over those that we elect to represent us. We all understand that as a member of that party and being elected under that partys banner they will agree with and follow the BROAD interpretation of their partys platform and ideology, but this group think when it comes to voting in the house does the public and the individual MP a grave disservice.

Taken to its logical conclusion we may as well just vote for the leaders or the party (which many, if not most, citizens do already) and let them debate the bills (they would then have to read their own speaking notes) and save the millions we spend on electing and paying individual MPs. The Leader with the most votes would have the final say and be able to dictate legislation .......... OH WAIT thats sorta like the system we have now!

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Sunday, May 3, 2015

More Public Money on False Ads

As the Conservative Regime move forward with their new branding efforts in an attempt to persuade the public that they are the greatest thing since the 1936 regime in Germany we learn that “the Conservative government has booked $13.5 million for an all-out blitz in April and May to advertise its 2015 pre-election budget.”

Now I have no real problem the the Conservative Party of Canada promoting their proposals on TV and radio any more than I do with any other political party doing so but that is NOT what is happening. These Ads are being issued from Government departments using public money.

The Canada Revenue Agency is spending $6 million on a concentrated TV bulk buy this month that includes pricey NHL playoff spots in what internal government documents describe as a continuation of an existing campaign that's been running all winter.
The tax agency's $6 million in TV advertising is augmented by a $7.5 million campaign by the Finance department, all designed to promote previously announced and new targeted tax breaks.”

It must be noted that any items contained in the budget, and indeed other Con proposals are just that, proposals, and have NOT passed in the House and became law and thus any advertising promoting these items is CLEARLY partisan advertising and payment of same from public funds is illegal. The blatant use of public moneys for self promotion is nothing new from this regime but it now reaches a level that once again show clear contempt for any parliamentary rules that exist.

The watchdog group Democracy Watch has launched a letter-writing campaign to get the federal auditor general to examine government advertising, they say “The Harper Conservative government has spent an estimated $750 million of the public’s money on advertising since 2006.”
Some of the ads have made clearly false claims, others (like the TV ads currently running during NHL playoff hockey games) have been about proposed government programs that don’t exist, and others have essentially been ads for the Conservative Party.”
They are calling for an audit by the federal Auditor General that will determine just how much of your money the Conservatives have wasted on these ads, this just as Ontario who have protections in place to prevent such abuse seeks to reduce such safeguards. Given the way in which the Cons have previously ignored reports and conclusions from the Auditor General I am unconvinced that even if such an audit did take place that the Cons would cease this undemocratic practice or refund the public money, it would however perhaps make more folks aware of how crooked this regime is!

The public advertising is just the tip of the iceberg that will come crashing into your area this summer, the PM and all those Con Ministers will be travelling the country (on you dime) flogging both the proposed budget and all the goodies promised, but may never happen, for some distant year in the future. And, it would seem providing 'photo opportunities' in Iraq and other foreign locations to highlight Canada’s rhetoric spinning leader and his oligarchical regime.

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