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, November 8, 2015

A cabinet that looks like Canada, why .... “Because its 2015”

Given the large number of Liberal MPs elected that was one of the easier promises to keep but never the less a damn fine start. Now comes the more difficult stuff so let briefly review the platform promises in regard to our democratic institutions and how “Fair and Open” this government intends to be. We all know we have heard similar phrases before and the outcome was nothing like the promise! With this in mind over the next few weeks I will take a closer look at some of the promises and some of the difficulties that may arise in keeping them, but in the meanwhile here is a quickie primer on those promises.

Restoring a sense of trust in our democracy and greater openness and transparency.
Amending the Access to Information Act so that all government data and information is made open by default in machine-readable, digital formats.
Accelerating and expanding open data initiatives and continually look for additional opportunities to do so.
Creating a central, no-fee portal for personal information requests.
Create a common, quarterly, and more detailed parliamentary expense report, make the Board of Internal Economy open by default.

Restoring democracy and accountability to Parliament.
Strengthen the role of parliamentary committee chairs, including elections by secret ballot. Ensure a more robust system of oversight and review for legislation.
Liberal Caucus members will only be required to vote with the Cabinet on those matters that implement the Liberal electoral platform or traditional confidence matters such as the Speech from the Throne and significant budgetary measures.
Create a new, nonpartisan, merit-based, broad, and diverse process to advise the Prime Minister on Senate appointments.
Work with all parties in the House of Commons to ensure an inclusive, representative, transparent, and accountable process to advise on appointments to the Supreme Court.
Introduce a Prime Minister’s Question Period, empower the Speaker to challenge and sanction Members during Question Period.
Change parliamentary financial processes, ensuring accounting consistency among
the Estimates and the Public Accounts, providing costing analysis for each
government bill and restoring the requirement that the government’s borrowing plans
receive Parliament’s pre-approval.
Ensure that all of the Officers of Parliament – the Chief Electoral Officer, the Access to Information Commissioner, the Auditor General, the Parliamentary Budget Officer etc, etc, are all properly funded and respected for doing their important work to help Canadians.
Not use prorogation to avoid difficult political circumstances, change the House of Commons Standing Orders to end the practice of using omnibus bills to reduce scrutiny of legislative measures.

Electoral Reform, advertising and debates.
Form an all-party parliamentary committee to bring recommendations to Parliament on the way forward, to allow for action before the succeeding federal election. Ensure that electoral reform measures – such as ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting, and online voting – are fully and fairly studied and considered. Within 18 months bring forward legislation to enact electoral reform
Repeal the anti-democratic elements in the Fair Elections Act and scrap the Citizen Voting Act, restore the voter identification card as an acceptable form of identification.
Provide Elections Canada with the resources it needs to investigate matters that threaten the integrity of our electoral process. Ensure that the Chief Electoral Officer and Elections Canada have the tools and mandate to encourage more Canadians to vote. Restore the independence of the Commissioner of Canada Elections so that they are freely able to prosecute electoral violations.
Appoint an Advertising Commissioner to assist the Auditor General in providing oversight on government advertising. Proposed messages will be reviewed by the Advertising Commissioner to ensure they are non-partisan and related to actual government requirements.
Review electoral spending limits, and also ensure that political party spending between elections is subject to limits.
Create a more inclusive, independent commission that will organize leaders’ debates during election campaigns, with a mandate to increase Canadians engagement and knowledge of the issues.
Work with provinces and territories, and support Elections Canada, to register young Canadians as a part of their high school curriculum. Support voter registration as part of a civic ceremony in high schools, support Elections Canada in proactively registering Canadians from groups that historically have lower voter turnout.

Evidence-based decision-making.
Allow government scientists to speak freely about their work, with only limited and publicly stated exceptions. Consolidate government science so that it is easily available to the public at-large through a central portal. Gag was removed Friday
Make Statistics Canada fully independent with a mandate to collect data needed by the private sector, other orders of government etc, etc. Strengthened Statistics Canada to make available more detailed labour market information, child development data,
and statistics on natural capital.
Immediately restore the mandatory long-form census. This was done within 24 hours of being sworn in, details to follow!

Better Service for Canadians.
Introduce a significant overhaul of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) operating practices to proactively contact Canadians when they are entitled to, but are not, receiving tax benefits; offering to create returns for clients, particularly lower income Canadians.
Combat international tax evasion; and ending the CRA political harassment of charities, as well as clarifying rules to affirm the important role that charities play in developing and advocating for public policy in Canada.
Create a Prime Minister’s Youth Advisory Council, consisting of young Canadians aged 16-24, to provide non-partisan advice to the Prime Minister on issues the country
is facing
Create a single window for all government services, and work with the provinces and territories on ways to combine online access efforts. Create individualized, secure accounts for Canadians who want to access all of their government benefits and other services.
Mobilize the experience and knowledge of Canadians using evolving technologies and incorporate their input into our decisions.

Security and oversight.
Create an all-party national security oversight committee to monitor and oversee the operations of every government department and agency with national security responsibilities.

The above is a very shortened summary of the Liberal document “A Fair and Open Government” which see for more details. 
  Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers


Lorne said...

The Liberals have made a promising start, Rural. All Canadians of goodwill, I suspect, hope the momentum continues. To see the reforms you list implemented would be tantamount to a rebirth of Canadian democracy, something that would, with little doubt, result in a far more politically-engaged populace. It would be the former government's worst nightmare, given how it worked so hard to discourage such a reality.

Rural said...

If and when folks believe that democracy is being protected and enhanced then many more citizens will 'become engaged',Lorne. We seem to be finally headed in the right direction, lets all encourage and support these initiatives.