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, December 30, 2018

Orwellian Musings

As we end the year that could perhaps be called 'annus horribilis' to use the Queens description of 1992 I find it hard to be optimistic about our future here across the other side of the ocean, or indeed for the rest of the world.

I cannot find the words to effectively put whats in my mind to print but fortunately there are others more effective writers from whom I can steal a few words. A Collingwood writers recent article drew my attention to a piece in the NewYorker which highlights how little things have changed sine Orwell wrote '1984' and 'Animal Farm' both of which should be as much of a warning to us now as they were back in the 1940s.

Ian Chadwick writes:- Pick pretty much any dictatorship or personality-cult government and someone has written about the similarities between it and Trump’s America. With little effort, you can lay out parallels between current and historical events (there are even disturbingly close parallels drawn between it and Orwell’s 1984). It’s a popular trope among political commentators, but it doesn’t solve the problems or address the real issue: greed. ….......

A story on Global News this year was titled, “Canada’s richest families own as much wealth as 3 provinces combined.” It noted:
The country’s most affluent families are worth $3 billion on average, while the median net worth in Canada is just under $300,000, meaning that half of families own more and half less than that. And while wealth at the top grew by $800 million per family between 2012 and 2016, a rate of 37 per cent, Canada’s median net worth grew by only $37,000, an increase of 15 per cent.
A study on Canada’s wealth gap by the Broadbent Institute found that, “Canadians underestimate the breadth and depth of wealth inequality… the distribution of wealth in Canada is different from what Canadians think it is, and a far cry from what they think it should be.”
The NewYorker article, whilst mostly about comparing Trumps actions with Orwells words could easily be taken to be about our new want-to-be dictator here in Ontario, the parrellels between Fords actions and the theme of the two book mentioned above is startling. Some extracts follow.

“There is nothing subtle about Trump’s behavior. He lies, he repeats the lie, and his listeners either cower in fear, stammer in disbelief, or try to see how they can turn the lie to their own benefit. Every continental wiseguy, from Žižek to Baudrillard, insisted that when they pulled the full totalitarian wool over our eyes next time, we wouldn’t even know it was happening. Not a bit of it. Trump’s lies, and his urge to tell them, are pure Big Brother crude, however oafish their articulation. They are not postmodern traps and temptations; they are primitive schoolyard taunts and threats.
The blind, blatant disregard for truth is offered without even the sugar-façade of sweetness of temper or equableness or entertainment—offered not with a sheen of condescending consensus but in an ancient tone of rage, vanity, and vengeance. Trump is pure raging authoritarian id.”

“ Caligula, the mad Roman emperor, infamously appointed his horse Incitatus to the Roman Senate, and that has been for millennia a byword for cracked authoritarian action. But we now know what would happen if Caligula appointed his horse to the Senate if the modern Republican Party happened to be in the majority there: first the Republicans would say that they didn’t want to get into disputes about the Emperor’s personnel choices, and then they’d quickly see how the presence of the horse could help justify dismantling regulations in the horse-chariot industry. “

The fable of 'The Emperor has no clothes' comes to mind for we seem to have a number of our supposed leaders strutting around thinking they are much better clothed than they actualy are!

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Sunday, December 23, 2018

Ho, Ho bloody Ho

This time of year is not my favorite season, yes its nice to visit family and catch up with both their recent activities and their plans for the future but the whole clamor of what is now largely a retail opportunity leave me less than enthusiastic. For far too many folks it is an excuse, or is that a perceived obligation, to spend money they cant really afford on items that have a good chance of not being used or useful to the recipient who similarly feel obliged to return the 'favor'. Me cynical and a grumpy old man? Yep!

That said I do feel 'obliged' to wish those few folks who read these pages, some of whom even take the time to comment upon my ramblings, seasonal greetings and wish them a happiness and contentment in the upcoming year. Just because I do not embrace those feeling this time of year does not mean I would wish such on others, if the state of our world locally, nationally and / or world wide both politically and environmentally bothers you, as it does me, then I suggest you do NOT read on for this is not going to be an uplifting creed.

It may make for bleak reading, but of the 162 countries covered by the Institute for Economics and Peace’s (IEP’s) latest study, just 11 were not involved in conflict of one kind or another. Then there are countries which are involved in no actual foreign wars involving deaths whatsoever - like North Korea & China – but which are fraught by the most divisive and entrenched internal conflicts. The number of authoritarian regimes that suppress their own citizens or the ethnic minorities who they consider interlopers is also considerable whether included in the above or not. The few that do not fall within those parameters are far from trouble free, much of Europe is in disarray between fending off Russian aggression and trying to agree to disagree with neighboring countries not the least of which is GB where the whole Brexit thing can only be described as the largest Cluster Fk since Cromwell's days.

North America is not immune to the political induced madness that is spreading across the globe much of it caused by individuals who seem to think they are democratic leaders but are in fact the exact opposite or quickly heading that way. Whilst the current U.S. 'leader' is perhaps the best example of such thinking where due process is just something to be ignored or circumvented and any opposition is demeaned or suppressed it is far from the only one who thinks that way. Which brings us to our own impending CF here in Ontario where the newly elected premier is cutting a swath though the checks and balances previously thought to be unassailable starting with the members of Toronto's council and a number of other 'cuts' seeming made with little or no input from the folks that citizens chose to represent them, flawed though that process may have been.

Across the country it looks no better as what appears to be an increasing division between those who do not believe in climate change or simply put the almighty dollar ahead of the ever increasing destruction of out atmosphere and life as we know it. We will not change thing overnight and the use of oil to power our economy will not substantially reduce in the short term but it should be clear by now that increasing its use is simply not on. I will leave it to others more eloquent on the subject to detail the dangers but polluting large areas by taking tar from the ground, adding more pollutants to it to send through aging pipelines to then ship it out of country where after processing and creating more pollutants much of it will be sold back to us make zero sense to me.

That our current federal leader, whom we thought was somewhat moving away from the excesses of the previous regime, seems to have been blinded by the rhetoric coming out of one particular province and bought said aging pipeline (for many mega dollars when the owners who had made their millions whined that they were pulling out) is 'disappointing'. To add insult to injury we now learn that further millions are being given to the diggers of tar because no one want to buy the crap and actually 'digging' it up and flogging it to distant suckers is no longer financially viable. In short between the world wide political situation, the idiot in charge next door to us and our own ever increasing divisions both politically and environmentally we are screwed.

Merry bloody Christmas eh.

IF I can find the fortitude (and that is highly debatable at this point) I will return sometime in the new year to cobble together what will no doubt be a long list of the questionable actions undertaken by the Ford Regime in the short time since they came to power.

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Sunday, December 9, 2018

Democracy in decline?

As my small cadre of regular readers will know I have been writing about our Canadian democracy for nearly 10 years much of that time spent documenting the Harper Regimes disdain for the democratic process. Although I now have less inclination to write the need to continue to keep those who would subvert said democratic process feet to the fire continues, most recently highlighted by the actions of the Ford Regime here in Ontario. I am not sure that I have the fortitude to extend my commentary to the same extend that I did a few years ago, certainly not to the extent and depth previously made on these pages, I am pleased however to see that a number of other bloggers are taking notice of the decline both here and elsewhere.

This last while I have seen a number of articles which have highlighted the writers concern about the state of democracy across the world some of which I will provide a brief synopsis and a link to here. Keep up the good work guys for I am getting tired of beating my head against that particular wall! Most of the following are linked from recent posts at http://progressivebloggers.ca/?s=democracy

Canadians take our democracy for granted. Most rarely think of it at all........
What is the root cause of transit issues in North America?

One of the critical strengths of our Canadian democracy is that we elect people in each electoral district to represent us in parliament........

Paul Krugman had it right when he denounced climate change denialists as “depraved.” And the depraved, also known as right-wing populists, will be out in force.........

To be sure, the elevation of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario to government redounds to everyone’s shame. Led by a buffoonish thug, Doug Ford........,

If you are not being sued by the Ford government in Ontario, you might already be suing it or hoping to sue..........

And here are a few further random posts on the subject.......

We continue to find compelling evidence of an increasing trust divide between government and citizens. This is reflected in the decline of democratic satisfaction and receding trust in politicians.......

From Michigan to North Carolina, GOP legislators are proving they care more about clinging to power than the will of the voters.......

One hundred years on from efforts to make British democracy somewhat fairer, the government likes to claim it cares about equality – but it has its sights on making it more difficult for people to cast their ballots.

The UK’s democracy is in danger of backsliding – but current policy proposals are not the right fix..........

How can our system of law enforcement (or government) survive, as other than an arm of a dictatorship, if there are no repercussions for those responsible for upholding the rules.......

Here in Ontario there is currently a 'dispute' between the teachers and the government as to what the teachers unions want and what the taxpayers can afford,....... (how little thing have changed in 6 years!)

At least we are still able to talk about it, in some parts of the world the very mention of such things could be considered blasphemous!

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Sunday, December 2, 2018

Backbenchers just decoration?

In this era of hyper-partisanship, can backbenchers have an effective voice, or have they been relegated to the role of a modern Greek chorus, anonymous figures advancing a pre-determined story?

This is the question Hershell Ezrin asks in a short article in Ontario News Watch
“In defence of hyper partisanship, central party staff at federal and provincial levels monitor backbenchers’ social media output regularly. Faux loyalty moments like standing ovations have become “de rigueur” in Question Period. “Cheerleading” records are kept. Caucus meetings seem more devoted to unquestioning displays of loyalty than to serious confidential discussion and feedback sessions..........

Current political staff have been accused of being the disciplinarians for this alternate reality. To get ahead (trips, assignments and even promotion), backbenchers need to satisfy the enforcers that they are good team players. “

This discussion was of course brought on by the recent disagreement between a rookie MPP and her rookie leader in the Ontario legislature.

A Progressive Conservative legislator who publicly denounced Ontario's decision to eliminate the independent office of the French-language services commissioner and a planned French-language university severed ties with the Tories on Thursday, the culmination of a dispute that saw her vote against her own party's legislation.
In a letter to the Speaker of the legislature, Amanda Simard said her decision was effective immediately, and she will remain as an independent. New Democrats and Liberals said they were not aware of any efforts to recruit her to their ranks.
"I am no longer a member of the Progressive Conservative Caucus," Simard wrote in the short letter. "I will continue to take my place in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as an Independent.
The rookie legislator, who represents a largely Franco-Ontarian riding, broke ranks with Premier Doug Ford's government over the two controversial decisions affecting about 600,000 francophones in the province.”

It has also highlighted the amount of 'control' that the Ford Regime wishes to have over the entire legislative process...

The Progressive Conservatives fear some disgruntled MPPs are set to cross the floor to join the Liberals, the Star has learned. That’s a key reason why Premier Doug Ford is increasing the threshold for official party status in the legislature from eight MPPs to 12, a senior source says. Ford’s office closely monitors Tory members. Sources say they track who applauds in the legislature and watch for MPPs who do not quickly leap to their feet for ovations after the premier or ministers respond to opposition inquiries during question period.

“They keep tabs on everything,” said a fourth Tory .... Two party aides noted that speaking out in caucus meetings is also discouraged because they don’t want anyone to undermine team unity.

But is all of the above Premier Doug Ford‘s decision or that of his chief of staff Dean French who it is alleged effectively runs the caucus meetings and just about everything else in Fords government? French’s management style has been called into question by members of his own party and by the opposition.

Who is running the ship and where is it going, perhaps Ford is also just decoration?

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