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, August 26, 2018

Another Ford Short Circuit.

Ontario's government has launched an online portal for parents to report teachers who they believe aren't following the current curriculum. Teachers who use the previous Liberal government's sex education curriculum from 2015 will be investigated by the Ontario College of Teachers, Premier Doug Ford's office said Wednesday.

"We will not tolerate anybody using our children as pawns for grandstanding and political games," the premier said in a press release. …..Seems to me that is exactly what Mr Fraud is doing with his ideological and dictatorial undocumented changes to the Ontario School curriculum.

Whilst the curriculum brought in by the previous (Liberal) government was not universally applauded in that a few narrow minded right wing parents objected to the kids being taught about the realities of modern sex education, the process to bring in said new curriculum was long and included much 'consultation' before being implemented. It was NOT changed by fiat over a few days before the teachers even had a chance to view the changes proposed nor were the teachers threatened with 'investigation' by the college of teachers for not strictly adhering to said narrow conservative view of the modern world.

That this follows the recent unprecedented and hurried change to the upcoming Toronto council election also brought in with no 'consultation' says much about the way this new Fraud Regime intends to proceed in the next 4 years. It is in my view an affront to democratic process, just because it CAN be done without input from those effected does not mean it should be done in that manner!

In some situations a short circuit can cause part of the unit involved to overheat and be destroyed resulting in the failure of the entire system with far reaching effects. Fraud has not blown it up yet but the heat sure seems to be building, keep your heavy gloves handy folks.......

Short Circuit - verb
If someone or something short-circuits a process or system, they avoid long or difficult parts of it and use a quicker, more direct method to achieve their aim.
(transitive) to bypass (a procedure, regulation, etc)

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Sunday, August 19, 2018

Democracy Versus Populism

One of the oldest rubs against democracy is that ordinary people aren’t up to the job. And the friends of populism aren’t helping the cause. They’re lining up to throw democracy under the bus in the name of, well, more democracy. The result will surely be less, not more.”
So says Dr. Don Lenihan an internationally recognized expert on public engagement and Open Government in a recent piece at National Newswatch.

He goes on to point out that its not so much the recent decisions by newly the elected Ontario Premier but the process that got short circuited in making them is the most troubling.
Take Doug Ford’s decision to intervene in the City of Toronto’s election. It’s a textbook example of how contemporary populism sacrifices the essentials of democracy for shallow, short-term gains. Ford’s view that a smaller City Council will result in better governance is not the problem. That’s a fair subject for debate. Derailing the Toronto election is the show-stopper. This sure looks like an abuse of power.”

Indeed given that the provincial government does have the right to make such decisions (questionable that it might be) that legislation to enact a drastic reduction in the number of councilors representing the citizens of Toronto being introduced and passed in just a couple of weeks with little or no 'consultation' is clearly undemocratic.
Ford justifies this one by saying that no one has ever asked him for more politicians. In fact, this is just the kind of thinking that gives democracy a bad name. Process is there to guard against abuses of power, yet populists want to discard it the moment it gets in the way of a good idea.” (not that this is necessarily so good)

Populist leaders generally claim to represent the unified "will of the people". He stands in opposition to an enemy, often embodied by the current system - aiming to "drain the swamp" or tackle the "liberal elite". Whilst not limited to 'right wing' regimes such governments seem to strongly fit that mold.
Over the years, we’ve seen tons of examples of populist governments around the world. All too often, the effects are exactly the reverse of what people like Wente claim. Far from enhancing democracy or “results,” they simply weaken accountability and centralize power........ Donald Trump is the exemplar of this kind of politics. Less than two years into office, his MO is clear. He is intent on divesting his office of as much accountability as he can, while centralizing decision-making as far as possible – all in the name of Making American Great Again “.

In his book The Global Rise of Populism, Dr Moffitt argues that there are other traits associated with the typical populist leader. One is "bad manners", or behaving in a way that's not typical of politicians - a tactic employed by President Trump and the Philippines' President Duterte. The other, he says, is "perpetuating a state of crisis" - and always seeming to be on the offensive, they also tend to dislike the "complicated democratic systems" of modern government which ties in to its links to authoritarianism, - a lack of trust in the established system gives rise to "strongman" leaders. (That certainly seems to fit with where Mr Ford seems to be headed)
(Mr Lenihan is) not denying that there are too many rules in government or that “bureaucracy” sucks. We’ve all been tied up in red tape and cutting lots of it out of the system may be liberating. But concentrating power in the leader so that he/she can “get things done” is the wrong way.
There are no short cuts to better democracy, and anyone selling this one is peddling snake oil. The true friends of democracy are willing to do the hard work of weeding out bad rules and finding and testing new solutions.”

I can only add that the recent actions by Mr Ford and what appears to be a caucus of willing yes men and women scares the H out of me in both the proposals tabled and the speed of legislation passed. It seems to me that 'due process' is not a phrase that our new government here on Ontario recognizes and if it can happen to Toronto it can happen to ANY municipality in Ontario..

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Sunday, August 5, 2018

Democracy Under Ford (#2)

I struggled with finding a suitable title for this article which it seems may well be the start of a series of observations regarding the high-handedness of the new Ontario authoritarian regime so just went with the previous headline part2! Is it oppression, repression, authoritarian, bullying, despotism, simply high-handedness, all or just some of the above and if not will it become some or all of them? Time will tell but in the meanwhile here is a simple list of the actions taken by this regime in just the first month in power, it is to me a very scary foretaste of things to come.......

I will start with the pre-election actions that should have warned us of things to come.....
Ford announced his campaign would not provide the traditional media bus following him as he campaigned for the June 7 election but did produce a series of fake videos thus controlling the message and avoiding answering questions from the press. In recent days he has reinstated this closely controlled media presence by launching a new social media account to promote his agenda. A Ford campaign staffer, is the on-air presenter in the video which appears to be designed to limit questions from the press but is being paid for with taxpayer dollars..

Moving on this handy list was provided online by CTV News …....
June 29: Ford is sworn in as Ontario’s 26th premier at a boisterous ceremony at Queen’s Park. He promises his government will “blaze a new trail” and unveils his cabinet.

June 30: Newly minted Health Minister Christine Elliott announces that the province will no longer fund prescriptions for people under the age of 25 who have private insurance coverage.

July 3: Ford takes his first step toward dismantling the province’s cap-and-trade program while public-sector managers learn they are now subject to a wage freeze and review of their pay.

July 4: Ford’s government puts a number of laws passed shortly before the election on hold, including new regulations for e-cigarettes and putting a ceiling on ticket prices for concerts and sporting events.

July 5: The first official meeting between Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes place, with the two leaders appearing to be on different pages on the immigration file.

July 6: Ford calls for the federal government to take over housing and settlement services for people who cross into Canada illegally. A former president of the Progressive Conservative Party is hired as a special advisor to the province on health care.

July 9: The Canadian Press reveals that a $100-million fund for school repairs has been cancelled as part of the winding up of the cap-and-trade program.

July 11: Hydro One CEO Mayo Schmidt retires and the utility’s entire board of directors resigns. Ford had said repeatedly on the campaign trail that he would fire Schmidt and the board, which Ontario’s premier does not have the authority to do.

July 12: A throne speech lays out a sweeping agenda for Ford’s government, including expanding alcohol sales, lower hydro bills and fighting the federal carbon tax. Additionally, the province confirms its intention to eliminate the recently introduced sex-ed curriculum.

July 16: The province introduces a new bill to give it more control over executive pay at Hydro One as Education Minister Lisa Thompson says sexual education topics taught in classrooms this fall may not entirely mirror the reintroduced 1998 curriculum.

July 17: Ford taps former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell to lead an inquiry into the previous Liberal’ government’s spending and announces that sex ed will be subject to “the largest consultation ever in Ontario’s history when it comes to education.”

July 18: Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says a meeting with her Ontario counterpart Rod Phillips left her questioning whether the province has a plan to fight climate change.

July 19: Ford and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe announce that they will work together through the courts to stop the federal government from introducing a carbon tax.

July 20: Carbon pricing, asylum seekers, marijuana legalization and the flow of alcohol between provinces are among the topics discussed as Canada’s premiers meet in New Brunswick.

July 24: The province says some federal funding earmarked for mental health initiatives will be put toward training police officers on how to appropriately deal with people with mental health issues. Ontario’s financial accountability officer says his office will look into the costs of cancelling the cap-and-trade program.

July 25: Legislation is introduced to end the months-long strike at York University and to formally repeal the carbon pricing program.

July 27: On the last day of registration for candidates in October’s municipal elections, Ford announces a plan to cut Toronto’s city council nearly in half while holding off on plans to introduce elected regional chair positions in the Muskoka, Niagara, Peel and York regions. Rumours surface that the province will let private-sector operators handle the sale of marijuana

In the few days since that synopsis was penned a lot has happened as the Ford wrecking crew continues to cut a swath across the province which I will attempt to briefly outline......

Ontario's new government will cancel the province's experiment with a basic income program, the pilot project, which reached full enrollment in April, was supposed to last three years.
The government will decrease the proposed Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program payments by 1.5 per cent.
The Progressive Conservative government's production of a TV-news-style video under the banner of "Ontario News Now" is a "pure example of fake news" that aims to undercut the pillars of democracy and muzzle media, political policy experts say. A day after the video was released to the public, PC members were criticized by the media for having political staffers clap during news conferences, effectively drowning out journalists’ questions. Reporters say this was a widely-used tactic during Ford’s election campaign.
The government refused to respond to the official opposition during question period Tuesday morning after an NDP member was accused of mocking the accent of PC MPP Kaleed Rasheed. Speaker of the House Ted Arnott at one moment also chimed in and said he could not hear the mocking of the accent even with his earpiece “volume cranked full blast.”
The fabricated outrage was about not what was said, but the tone of an comment not heard by most if not all but one Con MP, appeared to be an effort to stop debate about the Con efforts to cut the number of Toronto councilors. The proposed cut whilst apparently quite within the premiers power it would seem to show very little regard for democratic process.

And so the Ford Circus marches on with the clown in chief in full destruct mode.......

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