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, September 30, 2018

Municipal Government Vulnerability

Lost among the back-and-forth political battles between Ford and Toronto city council is that municipalities are not constitutionally protected as sovereign levels of government in Canada.

As a federal state, Canada is a confederation of two co-equal levels of sovereign government: provincial and federal.

But municipalities fall under the jurisdictions of provincial legislatures, so therefore have no entrenched or constitutionally protected status. Municipal governments are the closest to the people and to local communities and arguably have the biggest impact on the day-to-day lives of citizens, yet they’re the least powerful and the most vulnerable to encroachment by the provinces.

This vulnerability was previously brought to the fore some years ago during the 'amalgamation' of not only the Toronto area but a number of other municipalities across Ontario. The amalgamation was widely opposed in Toronto and the other municipalities but amalgamation occurred despite a municipal referendum in 1997 in which in over three-quarters of voters rejected amalgamation. Under the Mike Harris conservatives the result was much the same as the recent move by the Ford government, enforced changes to the way local government operates by an upper level of government.

This was perhaps a little less problematic than the current mess for whist any number of citizens were unhappy with such changes there was at least a 'process' and an opportunity for 'input' prior to the implementation of such changes (even if such input was largely ignored) However we now have a premier who has not only said he is going to “hold governments accountable in over 460 towns in this province” (whatever that means) but has demonstrated that he will override the wishes of any municipality that he personalty disagrees with. Not only that but will do so with NO consultation with the municipality affected or their citizens ….... scary, very scary!

“while amalgamation technically decreased the number of municipalities in Ontario — down from 850 to 445 — and 23 per cent of elected official positions were axed, (a 2014 report says) more people than ever are working in Ontario’s municipal governments.” We wonder what future disasters Fords proposed but unspecified 'efficiencies' will bring to our various local government operations and how much say we the citizens will have upon any changes our new authoritarian Ontario government bring down upon us.

The question needs to be asked of all our provincial politicians (particularly the Ford regimes supporters) are you 'for the people' or for yourself and your party.

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Sunday, September 23, 2018

Majority not enough for Ford.

The PCs are moving to change the legislature's rules of procedure, formally called the standing orders. These rules control such things as when bills can be introduced, when opposition parties get to put forward motions, and how much debate must take place before a bill goes to a final vote.
The rules already allow the government to cut short debate on bills and push them through to a final vote without giving the public the chance to speak at committee hearings. The PCs have used this power with most of the legislation they have proposed so far.
The proposed changes make it easier for the government to do this more quickly.

Then there is this …....

Ford said he plans to hold local governments’ feet to the fire to make sure they get projects like transit and infrastructure construction done. “We’re going to actually hold people accountable,” he said, without specifying how exactly he plans to do so.
“We’re going to hold governments accountable in over 460 towns in this province to make sure they maximize their budgets in the best way they can to respect the taxpayers.”
Apparently the municipalities must be 'accountable' to Doug Fraud as he and his newly elected minions (the majority of whom have never served in government) but he is only accountable to the electorate once every 4 years according to his calculations.

Remember that........
Nearly 60 per cent of the MPPs who took their seats at Queen's Park once the legislature resumes are newly-elected. Of the 124 ridings in Ontario, 73 were won by people who have never been an MPP that being mostly newly elected PCs.

Talk about the the rabid guide dog leading the blind masses!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

An Abuse of Power

Last Sunday an open letter signed by about 400 Ontario legal professionals was sent to Attorney General Caroline Mulroney asking that she not support the use of the Constitution's notwithstanding clause.
"We, the undersigned members of the legal community, are writing this open letter to you because your office is assigned to champion and safeguard the fundamental principles of the rule of law and due process in Ontario, and the rights of the people,"

The published version of the letter containing which among other things calls for support for a proportional voting system can be read at the CanadianDimention web site. It recognizes that “it would be fruitless to demand that the Ford Conservative government reverse its actions” as said Regime simply is not willing to listen. A partial extract follows :-
We, the undersigned group of scholars and teachers, deplore the autocratic and arbitrary reduction of ward representation for Toronto city council contained in Bill 5 being rushed through the Ontario Legislature by the just-elected Doug Ford-led Conservative provincial government.
There are numerous problems with this initiative – both in terms of policy and process – that cannot be squared with democratic values or procedures.

As policy, reducing the number of city councilors will not make for better representation or government or cost reductions for the city, as the Ford government claims. Indeed, as we saw with a similar cynical reduction of MPPs by a previous Conservative government, reducing the number of politicians did not lead to any cost savings, but merely shifted where money was spent in a poor and half-hearted attempt to respond to constituent demands, and had the effect of weakening local influence and centralizing more power at Queen’s Park and the Premier’s Office.

As policy, reducing the number of city councilors will weaken the democratic representation and advocacy roles so crucial to local government. Fewer wards mean that many more people will be trying to get the attention of fewer politicians. Far from increasing accountability, this will have the effect of insulating politicians from public pressure as bigger wards mean increased costs to run for office and politicians that will be indebted to those who can fund their campaigns. Meanwhile, local citizens will find it much harder to organize a grassroots campaign in these larger wards.

As policy, reducing the number of city councilors will make it harder to have a council that truly reflects the economic and social diversity of the city, as all research on representation shows that winner take all voting systems combined with large riding sizes tend to benefit the most established and powerful groups in society (i.e. wealthy white males) and fail to reflect the class, gender, ethnic and racial diversity of the community.

As process, it is conventional to signal the desirability of such reforms in the campaign period for provincial office, rather than announcing it after the election when voters now have no ability to consider it in casting their vote.

As process, it is conventional to take input on such proposed changes from the institutional representatives and voters that will be affected by the changes and develop an interactive policy approach that operates on realistic timelines to gain, respond, and act on such input, rather than ram through arbitrary changes just months before they need to be put into practice.

As process, it is conventional for governments elected under the first-past-the-post electoral system, particularly those that have gained a majority of seats but only a minority of the popular vote, to act with caution in taking up divisive policy issues, especially when such issues touch on the democratic rules of the game themselves. To radically alter the representational structure of another level of government, without warning and without input from said government or its electorate, is clearly an abuse of the power that the first-past-the-post voting system grants to legislative majority governments.

Full letter and signatures here.
The 'free vote' later this week will clearly show which of our provincial 'representatives' support democracy and which support the Ford dictatorship.

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Fordocracy in Action

Democracy is going every four years to elect a government…without worrying about your mandate being overturned,” said Mr. Ford.

No Mr Premier that's Fordocracy or if you prefer Dougocracy our Canadian democracy is much more than electing a new government every few years, it is a living reflection of the wishes of those citizens who charge a few individuals to represent their interests in governing our nation, province or municipality.

A liberal (as in open to new behavior or opinions) democracy is a representative democracy in which the ability of the elected representatives to exercise decision-making power is subject to the rule of law, and moderated by a constitution or laws that emphasise the protection of the rights and freedoms of individuals, and which places constraints on the leaders and on the extent to which the will of the majority can be exercised against the rights of minorities

The mindset that once elected one individual or for that matter one group of individuals can then dictate the manner in which we are governed by circumnavigating our usual parliamentary and legal process is incompatible to the very idea of democracy.

To say that the people have spoken and therefore he can do what he wishes given that he has more MPPs of his ilk than any other party is total nonsense, for starters of the eligible voters who cast a vote 60% did not vote for him or his party and a further 40% did not vote for ANY person or party so of the 10 million or so voters less than a quarter actually 'supported' his regime.

It is not so much whether the size of Toronto council is too large or small or even whether the citizens would be adequately represented with the proposed reduction of seats at the council chamber. It is the manner in which it is being done and the timing of the proposed changes that is most troubling. To change the rules in the middle of an election period, be it for Toronto or any other municipality, without giving those citizens a chance to express their view on such changes and to override a judges ruling that says it is unconstitutional as currently jammed down their throats is so clearly wrong that I cannot understand how any thinking MPP can support this move.

Perhaps that is the problem, it requires a thinking person who is not under thrall of the Con mindset to see that this move not only sets Toronto's election results in doubt but may bring more frivolous notwithstanding challenges from those who would destroy Canada as we know it.

Beware the Tyranny of the majority the inherent weakness of majority rule in which the majority of an electorate can and does place its own interests above, and at the expense of, those in the minority.

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Sunday, September 9, 2018

About That Gravy Train...

Bob Reynolds was named as a new chair of the negotiating team, as the Ford government looks to smooth relations between the government and Ontario doctors. Reynolds takes over for Dr. Barry McLellan, who Premier Doug Ford and his cabinet made the decision to fire in early August. McLellan had been appointed by the previous government to lead the negotiations. He was supposed to continue in the role until September 2019 but was instead officially replaced on Monday. Reynolds will also get a significant $67,000 salary boost from his predecessor. His salary has been set at $217,500 for 50 days of work.

Ontario's new government has sacked the special advisor for climate change and other senior officials hired by Kathleen Wynne's Liberal government. John Godfrey, a former Liberal MP, was appointed special advisor for climate change in 2015. He was paid $146,700 a year.
Doug Ford has given his family's lawyer, Gavin Tighe, a $667,000 government contract with the Public Accountants Council," NDP MMP Taras Natyshak said in a press release. "This looks like yet another pricey patronage appointment for Ford's friends and insiders – one that serves Ford and his friends, but not people or the province."

Ontario’s health minister says the province will address hospital overcrowding issues but any action must be done with an eye to fiscal restraint. She said the health-care sector will have to find ways to operate more efficiently and that will require “system transformation.” “I am convinced the solution lies in system transformation, and building health-care delivery for the future,” Elliott said. “Only a system-wide lens will help us plan successfully for how we will care for generations to come.” Elliott said the government is mindful it was elected with a mandate of fiscal responsibility.

“That means we are going to have to be innovative,” she said.

Seems to me that the gravy train is still chugging along but it now just stops at different stations and is picking up a greater load of baggage.

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Sunday, September 2, 2018

Sen. John McCain Eulogized

"He was a great man," "We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness." "The real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those who lived lives of comfort and privilege,"
Meghan McCain during her speech at her father's funeral service on Saturday in Washington, this was followed by some similar words from former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush who said.....

"So much of our politics, public life, public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast, and insult, and phony controversies, and manufactured outrage," said Obama

"He was courageous, with a courage that frightened his captors and inspired his countrymen. He was honest no matter whom it offended. Presidents were not spared," "John detested the abuse of power. He could not abide bigots and swaggering despots," Bush said during his speech.

The current presidents name was not spoken but its pretty clear to whom Meghan, Barack and George were referring to and those few words spoken by these people at such a difficult moment says much about the current situation south of the border.

Nuff said!

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