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 22, 2019

Seasons Greetings

As we approach the start of the year we choose call 2020 which but represents but a small portion of the time that mankind has roamed this ball of dirt we call earth and I approach my 74th year of stumbling around on it I am in a thoughtful frame of mind. This 'holiday is predicated on the 'celebration' of the birth of one particular individual many centuries ago and many folk still remember it as such, however many do not, either subscribing to other 'religions' or not finding the need to 'worship' an entity or individual, real or imagined, past or present, in order to treat our fellow living creatures with care and respect. I am one such individual, in broad terms I am a 'christian' believing in the christian ideals but without finding the need to embrace the religious rituals that some find necessary to embrace. I find little wrong with those that do, to each their own, but I have much more respect for those that practice the christian ideals in their daily life than those who pretend to on a weekly, or just on certain holidays like the one up coming, but do not practice what they preach.

When discussing religions we cannot ignore the fact that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of organized religions across the world and indeed many of them have active subscribers here in Canada. I mean no disrespect to any of those groups religious beliefs with my words here, as I said above to each their own, HOWEVER where those religious beliefs cross over into political areas and / or abuse and suppression of those who do (or do not) not subscribe to a particular religious group or belief the I do have a problem and will speak out! I am not going to pick out any particular group where such religious bigotry has resulted in not only suppression of opposing views but 'ethic cleansing'' entrapment, human right abuse and other similar abuses but to say that the middle east seems to be a breeding ground for these sort of abuses some of which those of us in supposed 'civilized' nations fail to condem.

As I have said above whilst I subscribe to most of the christian ideals I reject the religious aspect to it and have looked for an overall description that encompasses these ideals, the nearest I have come across is “Humanist” and there are several 'organized groups across the world who promote this view. A short outline from one such group follows.
“Humanists base their moral principles on reason (which leads them to reject the idea of any supernatural agency), on shared human values and respect for others. They believe that people should work together to improve the quality of life for all and make it more equitable.”

I cant end this ramble through my mind without covering a few other ever increasing troubling world wide goings on the most alarming (but apparently the least important for our 'leaders') being climate change. Australia …. all time record temperatures of 105f (40c) and large portions ravaged by bush fires, England …... record rainfall and flooding across the south, more tornadoes across the SE U.S. ...the list goes on meanwhile our 'leaders' cannot even agree on a statement about it all at the UN Climate Action Summit mostly due to the U.S. leader who denies there is any such thing as climate change. Which brings us to the mess that is increasingly becoming a worldwide problem as one set of Senators attempt to remove the clearly unstable and out of control U.S. president from power as others simply follow the light shining out of his rear orifice. Anything can happen when a country is being run by a twit who governs via twit rant and even the evangelical right are bailing out. I am not sure that politics is for some not a 'religion' that should be treated an affliction that should be eliminated whenever possible. But then I am feeling particularly old and grumpy about now!

Thus ends your Sunday Sermon this 22nd of December 2019.

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Saturday, December 7, 2019

A most Spectacular Mistake.....

Brexit has been “one of the most spectacular mistakes” in the history of the EU and followed a campaign marked by “an unprecedented readiness to lie”, Donald Tusk has said.

In his first interview since standing down as European council president last week, Tusk said Brexit was “the most painful and saddest experience” of his five years in office, a tumultuous period marked by the Greek eurozone crisis, bitter rows over migration and the election of Donald Trump.................

Citing the 2016 US presidential race and the Brexit campaign, he said a new element in politics was “the unprecedented readiness to lie on almost everything … to treat a lie as a justifiable tool to win”. He said this “shameless” behaviour would have disqualified politicians only 10 years ago.

Asked by the Guardian to specify who he had in mind, Tusk replied: “I don’t want to be too spectacular in my first interview … I have enough problems in my own country with professional and pathological liars.”

Its very hard to disagree with him on this not only was the original decision a disaster waiting to happen but the fact that the British pubic had NO idea of what such a separation would entail but the politicians, then and even now, don't have a clue except that all know it will be enormously disruptive for years to come no matter which way it goes.

Apparently much more informed folks are equally concerned ....
The UK diplomat in charge of Brexit at the British embassy in the US has said she could no longer "peddle half-truths" on behalf of political leaders she did not "trust".

"I have been increasingly dismayed by the way in which our political leaders have tried to deliver Brexit, with reluctance to address honestly, even with our own citizens, the challenges and trade-offs which Brexit involves; the use of misleading or disingenuous arguments about the implications of the various options before us; and some behaviour towards our institutions, which, were it happening in another country, we would almost certainly as diplomats have received instructions to register our concern." 

That many other nations are going through similar divisions should be no comfort to those in the country of my birth for the Right is right mindset is taking hold all over as clearly shown by the upcoming internal war currently under way just to the south of me in the U.S of Eh.

Keep your heads up folks, the next few years are not going to be fun both there and world wide. 

Then there is this  tongue in cheek long but rather accurate description of the situation in Britain  at this time....

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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Platform Web

Platforms are more like shopping malls than town squares — public to an extent, but ultimately managed according to private interests.” Taylor Owen in an article titled Why Platform Governance?
Not having heard the term 'Platform Governance' when I saw this link in reading some of Mr Owens recent posts via Progressive Bloggers and having written much about our democracy in the past I decided to find out more about it. There is a LOT of information about such ideas by various authors on the CIGI site but I will just highlight a few words from Owens post that caught my interest.
The social costs of the platform economy are manifesting themselves in the increasingly toxic nature of the digital public sphere, the amplification of misinformation and disinformation, the declining reliability of information, heightened polarization and the broad mental health repercussions of technologies designed around addictive models.
The economic costs are grounded in the market distortion created by increased monopolistic behaviour. The vast scale of the digital platform economy not only affords near-unassailable competitive advantages, but also invites abuses of monopoly power in ways that raise barriers to market entry (Wu 2018). Moreover, the ubiquity of the platform companies in the consumer marketplace creates special vulnerabilities because of the amount of control they wield over data, advertising and the curation of information.
The costs to our democracy are grounded not only in the decline of reliable information needed for citizens to be informed actors in the democratic process and the undermining of public democratic institutions, but in threats to the integrity of the electoral system itself. 
As someone who is deeply concerned about the effect that 'social media' is having upon rational discussion as clearly shown by the cluster fk that is Trumpisim in the U.S. I am pleased that much brighter minds than my own are writing of their concerns as to where digital platforms are leading us. The first paragraph in the above article highlights my main concern.
Ultimately, the platform web is made up of privately owned public spaces, largely governed by the commercial incentives of private actors, rather than the collective good of the broader society. Platforms are more like shopping malls than town squares — public to an extent, but ultimately managed according to private interests.
When 'shopping' on social media remember that such 'platforms' whilst purporting to 'serve' the public their bottom line is to make money.

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Sunday, November 3, 2019

Is it all about the $$$?

Regular readers, all two or three of you, will know that I have had little to say here at Democracy Under Fire during the recent election period, the manure being spread was simply too deep for this old fellow to wade through. Now that the BS is gradually subsiding I thought I would return to examining our voting system based upon the results from this recent attempt to bring us 'fair' representation to the House of Commons.

First lets dissect the results and the campaign funding involved in that....

Liberals 157 seats, 5,915,950 votes, 33.1 per cent of the popular vote
Conservative 121 seats, 6,155,662 votes, 34.4 per cent of the popular vote
Bloc Québécois 32 seats, 1,376,135 votes (7.7 per cent)
New Democrats 24 seats, 2,849,214 votes (15.9 per cent)
Greens 3 seats, 1,162,361 votes (6.5 per cent)
Others 1 seat, 383,373 votes (2.1%)

It can be clearly seen that the Block is strongly over represented and both the Greens and the NDP are under represented if representation by popular vote is taken into consideration. Clearly there is a strong influence to national results by the regional concentration of votes in any particular region, this is further reinforced by the Conservative sweep of Alberta and Saskatchewan (100% representation from 55% of votes in Alberta)

There will be no doubt a number of folks saying if this were proportional voting the results would be this xx, but I will not do that here because I believe that if folks knew that their vote for a particular candidate would not be 'wasted' by the first past the post system they may well vote differently.

Moving on to the influence of 'funding' upon any particular individual or their party its much more difficult to pin down, clearly the various political partys believe it has a great deal to do with the results or why else would some of them be spending millions of (partly refundable) dollars on (often questionable) advertising. This in addition the the substantial refund they get at the riding level.

Here are some of the numbers on that (just from April 1 to June 30 of this year).....
Conservatives raised $8.5 million from 53,000 donors.
Liberals raised $5 million from 41,500 donors
NDP raised $2.65 million from 21,000 donors
Greens raised 2.15 million from 21,000 donors.

The final numbers not yet available obviously will be much more revealing but I suspect that the amount of money spent has far less influence on the results than the fundraising gurus would have us, and their partys, believe. Obviously those running for election must have the ability to let the public know about their 'platform' but spending millions on political advertising much of which is spent slagging the opposition rather than outlining their own beliefs, is but BS no matter who's paying for it.

The election expenses reimbursement subsidizes 50% of the national campaign expenses of any party that obtains at least 2 per cent support, or at least 5 per cent in the ridings (electoral districts) in which they presented candidates.
Riding organizations are also reimbursed 60% of all expenses incurred by their candidates in each riding where they obtained at least 10% of the votes, plus 100% of allowable "personal expenses". There does not seem to be any restrictions on how those 'returned' funds are then used.

A final thought here on this, I believe that the previous per vote subsidy of $1.53–$2.04 previously paid to every registered federal political party based upon their previous election results prior to 2015 when Harper discontinued it was a much fairer way of ensuring that partys had a way of getting the word out. Those electors who were not inclined to send thousands to the party of their choice still got to support the electoral process where unfortunately the almighty dollar has far too much influence.
Having looked at some of the various voting systems over the past few years some of which I have explored in detail on these pages I still dont know if any of the proposed alternatives are a step forward or an invitation to further problems. I suspect there will be further discussion about this in the coming couple of years based upon the results outlined above.

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Sunday, October 20, 2019

Minority Coalition Parliaments

As one of the 'leaders' trying to become our next prime minister shows his true colours by spouting lies and false information I urge those of you who have yet to vote to be very careful what you wish for, or more correctly who you vote for. I will not tell you who to support but will repeat my belief that it should be ABC if for no other reason than the recent false information spread by said conservative 'leader'.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, probably the most ethical MP in the HoC recently corrected Mr Scheer as have numerous academics who have knowledge of the subject.
She said Scheer is knowingly "misleading" Canadians about the country's parliamentary traditions.
"The convention is quite the opposite of what Mr. Scheer is telling people. I'm not advocating it. I'm explaining what the rules are. The convention is the party that held power before the election has first crack at seeing if they can hold the confidence of the House ... Mr. Trudeau, gets first crack at it," she said. "We elect 338 MPs and they have a right to decide who should form government at the end of an election."
In Canada's system of Westminster parliamentary democracy, the prime minister and the cabinet must answer to the House of Commons and they must enjoy the support and the confidence of a majority of the members of the chamber to remain in office.

It is instructive to examine the recent history of the New Zealand Parliament where they have had stable minority governments since 1996 when they switched to a Mixed Member system of electing their government.

They have in fact had a coalition (there is that word that our current leaders of all stripes have been studiously avoiding) government of one sort or another continuously ever since. For those readers who are not familiar with the NZ parliamentary system I will simply say that it is a Westminster System based upon the UK tradition, the same as ours is, with the proviso that their native Māori population have had some reserved seats since the mid 1800s.

Seems like they are WAY ahead of us and both our parliamentarians and the general population should be taking note as this pivotal moment in our governance arrives.

A few more details of their system follow, will we ever adopt such a system …. not anytime soon the way things are going but I suspect that we are about to get a taste of coalition governance whether we are ready for it or not. Let the games begin.......

Mixed-member proportional (MMP) era
45th Parliament 1996 election Fourth National (in coalition)
46th Parliament 1999 election Fifth Labour (in coalition)
47th Parliament 2002 election
48th Parliament 2005 election
49th Parliament 2008 election Fifth National (in coalition)
50th Parliament 2011 election
51st Parliament 2014 election
52nd Parliament 2017 election Sixth Labour (in coalition)

The New Zealand Parliament was established in 1854 and is one of the oldest continuously functioning legislatures in the world. The New Zealand Parliament is consciously modelled on the Westminster system of parliamentary representation, developed in the United Kingdom.
New Zealand had representatives of the indigenous population in its parliament from an early date. Reserved Māori seats were created in 1867 during the term of the 4th Parliament; Māori men aged 21 and over, whether or not they owned property, could vote to elect four Māori members of the House of Representatives

A member of Parliament is a member of the House of Representatives, which has a minimum of 120 members, elected at a general election for a three-year term. There are 70 electorate MPs, of which seven are elected only by Māori who have chosen to be registered on a separate Māori electoral roll. The remaining members are elected by proportional representation from published party lists.

Finally for those who may be still considering voting for a Conservative representative I offer the following links that highlight the mindset of such people as shown by past and current 'leaders' within those partys.

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Sunday, October 13, 2019

Advanced Polls are open.....

I will be driving the few miles to the polling location shortly to waste my time voting for a candidate who will not be elected, its more of a protest vote against the 'party' of the fellow who will almost certainly get in in this traditional conservative riding. I have nothing against the individual, or for that matter no great affection for any of the others, I dont know them, have never met them and know very little about them. Therein lays part of the problem with our system of governance, we hear much about the 'leaders' and their 'platforms' (aspirationial lies?), a little about the more high profile individuals and 'close' riding's but considerably less about our local candidates unless one attends an 'all candidates' forum if and when organized. It matters not anyway for even if elected the chances of 'your' MP having any great influence in any decisions is minimal, are they a member of the 'winning party', are the part of 'cabinet' within that party, how much influence do even cabinet members have upon the 'leader' and his inner circle of unelected advisors.

How many of us actually vote directly for the individual as opposed to the political party they represent (they supposedly represent us but.....) or indirectly for the leader of said party?

Many of us continue to mourn the failure to adopt a new voting system in Canada and I would hope that at some point that whole idea is revisited but the greatest danger I see with such change that I see is adopting a system that is worse than the one we have now. For now we are stuck with the system we have and it looks like it will bring us a minority government (which is almost certainly what any more proportional system would bring us regularly) the question then being can our elected representatives of all stripes work TOGETHER for the benefit of all Canadians or will they be so busy fighting each other that NOTHING gets done?

Me cynical, you better believe it, and getting more so daily as the BS gets deeper each news cycle.

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Sunday, September 29, 2019

Intent V Reality

The over the top coverage of the dress and makeup of a young fellow at a party some 20 years ago has reached the point of a media frenzy, whilst our society clearly needs a discussion about how we treat and view individuals who look or dress different from ourselves, the current media frenzy is motivated almost exclusively by political opportunists. Does anyone really believe that these obscure pictures were 'accidentally' found by someone who was genuinely concerned with the appearance of someone who is now almost two decades later in the public eye and were publicised just before said individual is up for reelection? Or is it more probable that one or more (and I think we know which 'one) political opponent was busy searching for something, anything, to spin the media coverage and public opinion to their advantage?

This whole discussion should NOT be about how we look or dress but how we ACT in our daily interaction with others, if our actions towards others is questionable it is the INTENT that needs to be examined not necessarily the perception given by the actions. Is a woman who wears a headscarf in the rain mocking one who wears a head covering for religious belief? I dont think so! On the other hand someone who takes to the streets to oppose immigration by those whos ethnic background is not the same as their own is clearly 'racist', dressing up as someone who looks different from ourselves at a party may be questionable given the sensitivity of such issues nowadays but circumstances must be examined. Are we to now to start being 'politically correct' and more closely examine our kids Halloween costumes for fear that our neighbours may be offended, where do YOU draw the line.

Perhaps the words of Calgary’s Muslim mayor Naheed Nenshi says it best …..
“I’m. “Canadians cannot stand on moral high ground calling out leaders for offensive things they did, years ago, if we’re not also willing to stand up to the racist and discriminatory behaviour that is directly in front of our faces in 2019,” He referred to the law in Quebec that bans some public sector employees from wearing religious symbols during work hours. “I, as a Muslim man, could hold any job I want, but under this law, a Muslim woman who covers with a headscarf cannot,” 

It is NOT about how we look or dress (except perhaps in Quebec) but how we treat others that may be a little different from what we are used to, its about respect towards others INCLUDING those with differing political views ….. enough said!

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Sunday, September 15, 2019

The ABC Dilemma ….again

As 'be counted' day approaches each of us of voting age must decide which 'party' to vote for, yes I know we do not vote for the party but for an individual who 'represents' (or more correctly is a member of) said political party. Lets face it the whole idea that we are voting for an individual is becoming more and more of a farce each time an election comes around be it federal or provincial, the 'party' the 'leader' and the back room boys of said party have all the power and for the most part our individual MPs have very little influence in what is said and done in their name by that inner group.

Cynical you say, perhaps so but when we see 'leaders' (of all stripes) dictating who and who cannot run under their banner even after the local Electoral District Association has selected and endorsed a candidate, when even the smallest long past comment is grounds for 'the party' rejecting a candidates ability to run under their banner, then perhaps my initial thoughts above are not so far wrong. Let he who is without fault cast the first stone is perhaps the appropriate comment here!

This leaves those of us who intend to vote on Oct 21st in a bit of a dilemma, do we vote for that local candidate who we like and trust but who has little chance of getting elected, do we vote for the 'next best' candidate who has a better chance 'representing us'? Do we vote for an individual we dislike and distrust but whose party is our preferred choice of government or do we vote to reduce the chances of a party we don't want to see in power from having one more MP in the house and possibly gaining power.

This latter choice is then where the heading for this piece comes from ABC ….. Anyone But Conservative ….. Long time readers will know that this blog was originally started to highlight and document the previous conservative government of Stephen Harper attacks on our democracy. Whilst I have attempted to highlight issues that jeopardise our democracy by any and all partys I cannot help but say that I still think that the conservative mind set as evidenced by the Frord regime here in Ontario is the greatest danger to it. That Scheer seems to want nothing to do with his Ontario counterpart kinda says it all in my mind, there may be a bit of a divide between provincial and federal politics but I see little difference in the ideological beliefs of the various leaders or would be leaders.

In May of this year I wrote “Frankly the thought of Ford in control of our province scares the living shit out of me, I am firmly convinced that he will do and say anything to gain power, nothing he says can be taken at face value.......” That assessment has been proven to be correct and I can but hope that we don't get to see if indeed Mr Scneer is cut from the same cloth!

I still don't know if I will be voting for my local candidate, the party of choice (both Green at this point) or strategically to stop the Frord want to be. Stay tuned.......

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Sunday, September 8, 2019

Rural Election Coverage Disappearing

National media coverage of rural Canada during elections is thin, and local outlets are disappearing. The overall quality of Canadian debate suffers.” So says Barry Wilson in the online magazine policyoptions.irpp.org as a long time rural resident myself I cannot help but agree and so will highlight a few of Mr Wilsons valid points below, the link above will take you to the full article.

Reaching voters thinly spread across large areas with often-poor internet connectivity can be a daunting and expensive task. But rural voters represent a powerful electoral force. When the voter base in a constituency is just a fraction the size of densely populated urban ridings, winning over an individual rural voter can carry more election-day weight than garnering the support of three or four urban voters.

Certainly its harder for candidates to get their message out in rural areas be it via the internet or in person due to both the distances involved and the reduced communications infrastructure however I disagree that the voter base size has much impact. A quick look at the chart of voter populations vs individual riding reveals that there is little correlation within each province, there is a difference between provinces however with the less populated provinces having as much as half the number of voters per riding.

However, if election coverage in 2019 follows the well-established historic pattern, rural issues and analysis will receive scant detailed attention.... Besides, national election outcomes rarely are decided in rural Canada, and a commitment to spend limited resources on expensive, in-depth rural issues research is a hard sell. For rural voters, the scant coverage of their issues means their infrastructure, income or market access concerns will lack the broader political attention needed....

Even the rural candidates themselves rarely talk much about 'local' issues the order of the day for most candidates be in in rural areas or larger centers seems to be regurgitating the party line of their particular 'leader'. Given that said 'leader' (or more accurately his handlers) 'vetted' said candidate before letting him stand under their polotical banner this is hardly surprising!

Meanwhile, the challenges and costs of investing in infrastructure and services for low-density populations spread over vast distances add complexities that do not exist when programs are delivered to concentrated urban areas.
The reality is that the per capita costs of providing services in rural areas is far higher than providing comparable services in urban areas and the political payback is less because there are fewer people benefiting,”

Its the old story, the squeaky wheel get the grease and noises from rural areas seem to get lost in the cacophony issuing from urban populations.

The local community paper, although an increasingly rare breed, is the best vehicle for covering local issues, and people read it cover to cover,” he told me. “Urban outlets try, but they quickly find rural issues are complicated, demands and needs are different than in urban ridings and reporters don’t have the background.”
A factor in the limitations of rural election coverage is the steady erosion of rural media outlets and independent voices. As in urban Canada, the number of rural media outlets is falling, centralized ownership is increasing and newsroom budgets are tightening.

The erosion of rural media outlets and independent voices.....” The 'erosion' hardly covers it, how about the elimination? Sure there are paper published is some larger rural communities but they are by enlarge owned by and much of the content 'controlled' by multinational newspaper chains. The truly independent LOCAL paper is a rare breed indeed, as is LOCAL online community news coverage (although I see some encouraging developments of 'citizen run initiatives' in this area). Is it little wonder that rural issues receive so little attention.

One final note here about what is meant by 'rural', Statscan defines it as settlements of under 1000 folks or with less than 400 folks per sq km which certainly does not include many areas in 'rural riding's' which include many communities defined as Rural and Small Town having less than 100,000 occupants which then included small cities which clearly are not rural. In short its hard to say what is and is not a 'rural riding' and even harder to separate issues of 'small town' residents from those from true 'rural' folks, each with somewhat different issues that need addressing. Is it any wonder that someone elected to represent this diverse population at a legislature overwhelming comprised of 'big city folks' has difficultly getting anyone to understand the various complexities of rural communities!

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Sunday, September 1, 2019

Take a deep breath ....whilst you still can.

On the day Premier Doug Ford pulled Ontario out of an international clean energy trading market, it spelled the end for 227 emissions-reducing projects across the province, reveals a leaked document....It is but a small example of the short term thinking and anti green mindset of the Frord regime.

According to the leaked document, in Ontario, the money was set to fund 120 commuter cycling programs (each worth $25,000) in 120 jurisdictions across the province. It was set to help develop 41 green social housing programs, and 20 improvement or retrofit projects for social housing apartments. It was also going to go toward 11 electric vehicle charging stations and one electric-bus pilot in the city of Brampton (Canada's ninth largest city).....

According to the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO), whose office the Ford government shuttered earlier this year, cap and trade raised almost $2.9 billion in government revenues from six auctions since January 2017 — $2.4 billion up to March 31, 2018, and $472 million in the final May 2018 joint auction with California and Quebec. The money was tracked in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Account (GGRA) and used to “fund, directly or indirectly, costs relating to initiatives … that are reasonably likely to reduce, or support the reduction of greenhouse gas.”.........

In California, cap and trade funds have been collected from polluters and spent to slash greenhouse gas emissions. Last year, the state spent US$1.4 billion on such efforts, investing in everything from electric cars, solar panels and clean energy transit lines. These programs have helped clean the air of pollution that makes people sick — reducing particulate emissions by 474 tons in 2018. The fund is also being used to reduce the amount of water that Californians use and to plant millions of trees...........

In Ontario, the cancellation of cap and trade is shown as lost revenue in the Ford government's first budget. It is mentioned only four times in the 382-page financial document, with few details about where the cap and trade funds the government had in its coffers had been spent. (In previous interviews, Ministry of Environment spokespeople have said the remaining money in the cap and trade coffer will allocated for "wind-down costs.").....

The preceding is just a few highlights from an article published a few weeks ago which can be seen in full at https://www.nationalobserver.com/2019/07/09/news/exclusive-doug-ford-didnt-tell-you-ontario-cancelled-227-clean-energy-projects

Add to this Jason Kenney’s (tax payer funded) inquiry into that “foreign-funded defamation campaign” against Alberta’s fossil fuel industry and you can clearly see that the right wing oil (tar) lovers are in full cry! (see https://albertapolitics.ca/2019/07/albertas-foreign-funded-fossil-fuel-defamation-inquisition-stand-by-for-an-expensive-gong-show/)

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Sunday, August 25, 2019

Democracy in danger?

Given the title of this blog I must ask the question is our very democracy in danger from the proliferation of discourse on social media, whether true or not, about our political leaders and their various 'platforms'. I will freely admit that being one of the rare individuals that has no social media presence himself and thus only see media reports about some of the political mud being thrown in such places as Twitter and Facebook that my perception could be totally skewed from reality. That said, it seems to me that anybody can say anything about the various 'platforms' put out by the established parties whether true or not and much of the rhetoric gets picked up and amplified by the users of said social media.

The disinformation on such media would seem to be totally over the top, uncontrolled and without any accountability for such untruths, the twit in chief to the south Mr Trumph being the greatest spreader of such lies. Once the election period starts the political parties themselves will have some restrictions as to expenditures and can be challenged about glaringly partisan lies, but what of similar similar lies and partisan BS on social media? Our MSM, the newspapers and TV stations, are less restricted in what they can (and do) say than the political parties themselves but still can be held legally responsible for published information, individuals on social media not so much.

Is the ease with which anyone no matter who they are or where they live (including foreign entities who would like to destroy our democratic systems) can spread their opinions a good thing in promoting dialog or a dangerous thing with the potential to give those who would destroy or subvert our parliamentary system a foot in the door. I don't know, but I sure see some troubling trends developing.

The current situation in the U.S. and Great Britain is as much the result of the spread (by the twit in chief and facecrap) of dissenting, often inaccurate or misleading, opinions by both political pundits and their social media followers as the very questionable output from said 'leaders'. So far it has not reached such epidemic proportions here in Canada but I see an alarming trend in the increase of such disinformation spread by such means.

A fellow blogger who writes about democracy wrote a commentary yesterday upon the current state of affairs at https://billlongstaff.blogspot.com/2019/08/i-vote-cbc.html which promotes the CBC as perhaps the only remaining 'neutral' MSM, whilst I would hope its not that quite that bad yet I cannot help but agree that it is increasingly looking bleak in that regard.

As an old man who has been kicking around on this ball of dirt we call earth for more than 70 years have I just started seeing more clearly or simply become much more cynical? Or is my strong dislike and distrust of 'social media' coloring my concern that rhetoric will overwhelm common sense? You decide!

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Sunday, July 28, 2019

Comparing Dictators....

There are those progressives who have made a point of not comparing the Trump Regime with that of Hitler in the early 30s, I make no such distinction for I see many similarities, that Trump's focus in not so much on one particular ethnic minority make little difference to the general tone and direction of his focus. Hate for those who look or think different from yourself is troubling from anyone but when it comes from a person in a position of great power and control over the government programs that effect the daily lives of the general population it becomes alarming. That when that powerful individual has an almost unlimited platform to spread his lies and hate with impunity as apparently does the current U.S. 'Leader' then the comparison cannot be denied.

Is this history repeating itself, lets take a quick look back at pre war Germany.......

Hitler gained popular support by attacking the first world war peace treaty and promoting support for his pro German ideas, he did so with with charismatic oratory and propaganda. and denounced international capitalism as part of a conspiracy.
Shortly after conservative leaders persuaded President Paul von Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as Chancellor in1933 the Reichstag passed the Enabling Act which began the process of transforming the Republic into a one-party dictatorship based on the totalitarian and autocratic ideology of National Socialism.

The regime became responsible for the killing of an estimated 19.3 million civilians and prisoners of war in addition to the 28.7 million soldiers and civilians died as a result of military action. After the end of WWII the phrase 'Never again' was frequently invoked as it still is in some quarters but any time now I expect the Trump 'Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda' to be founded as it was shortly after Hitler came to power. I don't expect Trump to start executing his opponents (yet) but he sure is using his power as president to spread hate and venom against those who oppose him, particularly visible minorities and duly elected members of the opposition. This man is a dictator in waiting! 

Over the top? Perhaps, but whilst the focus of The 'Dear Leader' is a little different the hate and rhetoric at those who are different be it in ethnic roots, looks, place of birth and even political views is so similar to that outlined above that it cannot be ignored. Beware the right wing mind set that only their wat is the right way...... Enough said!

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

An Urgent Crisis?

Its pretty clear where the Con's stand regarding the ever increasing threat to life as we know it on this planet we call Earth for all 63 of them in the House of Commons voted AGAINT a motion declaring a national climate emergency.

The motion describes climate change as a "real and urgent crisis, driven by human activity," notes how it is impacting Canadians, and states the need to pursue clean growth methods to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The House has voted to “declare that Canada is in a national climate emergency which requires, as a response, that Canada commit to meeting its national emissions target under the Paris Agreement and to making deeper reductions in line with the Agreement's objective of holding global warming below two degrees Celsius and pursuing efforts to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius."

Not 24hrs later we have this....
Well, that puts an end to any Liberal pretensions of being a progressive party. No progressive would have done what they did today - green light the Trans-Mountain (Trudeau Memorial) pipeline expansion.
The hilarious part is that the announcement came just hours after the House of Commons passed a motion declaring Canada is in a climate emergency. The Tories voted against it, the Liberals waited almost a day to trample all over it.

I suspect it will all be sorted out at the ballot box come September (as it always is) but which way that is going to go is anybody's guess, it seems this 'poll' asking about voter intentions says much the same,

Accessible Voters – Asked whether they would consider voting for each of the federal parties, 44.3 per cent would consider voting Liberal, while 43.6 per cent of Canadians say they would consider voting Conservative. Four in ten (38.4%) would consider voting NDP, 37.0 per cent would consider voting Green, 8.1 per cent would consider voting for the People’s Party and 30.0 per cent would consider voting for the BQ.

I don't know about 'considering' voting Green, I think perhaps it has now become essential, they cannot perform miracles but at least they are more aware of the challenges facing us than the others seem to be.

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Sunday, June 16, 2019

Long Hours & Many Miles

“The hours are long, the workload can be overwhelming. The people you work for don't always like you and, after four years, they can fire you without saying why.” so says the opening commentary in a recent article highlighting the retirement of some Mps this coming fall.

"I didn't realize just the amount of time it would take away from the family," said Rodger Cuzner (Liberal, Cape Breton—Canso). "That that was probably the greatest surprise, but it's one that comes with taking on the responsibility and taking on the job." Cuzner had a gruelling travel schedule: up at 4 a.m. on Mondays to catch a flight to Ottawa, midnight arrivals back home in Cape Breton at the end of the week, criss-crossing his rural riding on weekends to attend community events. "It's all-consuming," he said.

Retiring MP Brad Trost (Conservative, Saskatoon—University) who endured a similar weekly commute between Ottawa and Saskatoon, said he was surprised by the daily grind of parliamentary business. "I had the vision that there was going to be a lot of meetings. I just had no clue how many meetings there would be," said Trost. "We do meetings beyond meetings, and meetings about meetings here in Ottawa."

What struck me most I not so much the long hours and endless meeting required in legislature business by the job, that is perhaps a greater burden than many of us who are not involved first hand realize but after what appears to be long days of such activities for SOME Mps their week then is book-ended by traveling time to and from their home riding and family. From Cape Breton to Saskatoon to Kootenay to the Northwest Territories these MPs must put in many hours commuting back and forth to Ottawa where some of the fellow MPs are just a relativly short travel time away.

It strikes me that there is room for more use of virtual commuting where by distant representatives can attend meetings and even the proceedings in The House by teleconferencing, Sure there will be times when personal face to face meetings are necessary but surely given the way many world wide bushiness operate nowadays daily face to face meetings are more traditional than necessary? Many such meetings are already broadcast where such discussions are public and the technology exists to have private or semiprivate discussions in the virtual reality world, such accommodation would free up our MPs to be more responsive to and have a better understanding of their local populations concerns.

Perhaps by the time the renovations to the House of Commons are complete the whole place will be but a museum where tour guides can say “Once upon a time this was where MPs traveled hundreds of miles just to listen to the government and opposition argue about who said what to whoom.”

Just asking!

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Sunday, June 9, 2019

List of List's, Cuts, cuts, cuts....

Ontario Premier Mr Frord has said he is on a mission to 'reduce waste' by any means possible (except by removing himself) and he most certainly is reducing the programs and supports available to us peons that rely upon government to help for everything from health and welfare to education to environmental protection and many more 'essential services', much of which is now apparently deemed 'non essential'.

A number of organizations, journalists and individuals have been attempting to document all the cuts to services, departments, organizations and government funding in general that have taken place 'For the people' in the last year under this new dictatorial regime some of which I will list below. Many of you who are not in thrall by the conservative mindset will have seen one or more of these ever expanding lists which will now increase quietly behind shuttered legislature door until the very end of October AFTER the upcoming federal election. Those of us with a cynical bent (and that includes myself) would agree with those who have said that such a long summer break is designed to assist his buddy and fellow right wing ideologue Andrew Scheer by seemly not pissing off more folks that might otherwise make the mistake of supporting that piece of work.

I think it more probable that he simply wants to stay away from ANY accountability for his actions past, present AND future by governing from behind closed doors where we will hear of what longstanding 'services' have been removed by edict over the summer after the fact …... Ontario you have just been screwed by an expert who appears to rule by antagonism as one observer put it!

Anyway if you have not read any of The Lists here are a few but I would suggest you dont inhale unless you want to overdose and end up on the floor screaming and kicking....

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Friday, June 7, 2019

The uncountable Ontario 'government' !

“The Ontario Progressive Conservative government plans to adjourn the House for an extended summer break on Thursday, in a move that would leave Queen’s Park empty until after the next federal election.
The Ford government will table a motion on Thursday to extend the summer break to Oct. 28, more than a month longer than the original return date of Sept. 6.
“Since June 7th, 2018, the Ontario government has moved at an unprecedented pace,” it said in the statement.

No friggin kidding, something akin to a mad man with a machete running wild among us poor natives who were desperately trying to hang on to the few supports available or those not on Frords elite list.

They have been governing like a dictatorship right from the start , now they can go another three months without even the semblance of any accountability whist bombarding us with lies and BS and promoting the equally corrupt federal Con artists...

What me biased? You better believe it, and my previous days of measured and reasonable commentary are over, I am now thoroughly pissed at the state of politics in Canada and more particularly in Ontario and such will be reflected in future 'rants' on these pages.

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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Are these 'senators NUTS?

I have returned briefly to tell these mostly Conservative Albertan Senators to get their collective heads out of their collective arse's ... do they really think a few dollars in a few Alberta pockets will compensate for the destruction of the flora and fauna of the west coast that will result from the first inevitable major spill. Never mind the cost of the impossible clean up, the economic cost to the area (oh wait you don't give a shit, its not your area), Never mind the death of irreplaceable sea life that is already threatened world wide.

Read on if you can stomach it!

A federal ban on tanker traffic off British Columbia’s north coast has been defeated in a Senate committee, but that doesn’t mean it’s dead in the water.

On a 6-6 vote, the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications recommended not to proceed with the controversial Bill C-48.

The federal Liberals’ bill, otherwise known as the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act, would ban tankers carrying more than 12,500 metric tonnes of crude or persistent oil from stopping or unloading along B.C.’s northern coast.

Senator Doug Black said the development was “a good day for Alberta and for Canada.”

The committee voted 6-6 to to reject recommending the bill. Because of the tie vote, the recommendation failed.

Alberta independent senator Paula Simons voted against it, along with five Conservative senators. Five other independents and one self-identified Liberal voted in favour.
Canadian oil industry.

Conservatives in the Senate said voting down the bill is a win for Canada’s energy industry, leaving open the possibility of exporting Canadian oil from northern B.C. ports.
Despite the recommendation, the bill is not dead yet. The Senate still must vote on the bill.

The legislation has already passed in the House of Commons but not in the Senate.

Extracted from https://globalnews.ca/news/5282395/senate-committee-recommendation-against-bill-c48-oil-tanker-ban/

Senators ... go take a swim in an Alberta tailing pond and then come back and tell us how little risk there is to allowing massive tankers to traverse this narrow and challenging, largely unpolluted navigational waters

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Sunday, May 26, 2019

Democracy Delayed

 I regret that for the foreseeable future I will not be writing any commentary upon the state of our democracy on these pages due to personal family challenges that must be given a higher priority. This does not mean that I no longer have an ongoing and deep concern for the state of our democracy here in Canada and particularly more recently here in my home province of Ontario, the right wing mindset across much of our country seem determined to undermine and destroy many of our hard won democratic checks and balances. As with the gains we have made in that regard over the years, the largest of which in my humble opinion was ridding ourselves of of king Harper, the changes are generally so slow as to not raise any great debate, perhaps not so slow in recent months as King Frord polishes his sword.

I am no great scholar and will not attempt to point out the dangers that authoritative individuals in power can bring or lecture upon how few folks actual take the time to see what is happening behind various legislature closed doors but simply say this.... stay alert or you may be living in a country you do not recognize.

If you, the reader, feel strongly about protecting our democracy and have something to say but no place to say it I offer these pages as a place express your opinion. Whilst we are not read perhaps as much as some other bloggers who post more often, my years associated with Progressive Bloggers and their well read feeds do give some daylight to words placed here so feel free to submit you words for publication to cover for my absence.

Submit your articles directly to me at democracyunderfire@gmail.com generally there is no change in my conditions for publication as laid out in the front page link to Submitting Article . Responses from us may be a little delayed in actual publication please have patience but by all means participate in our struggle to protect our democracy.

Thanks for your support and reading over the last 10 years DMR (rural)
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Sunday, May 12, 2019

Mothers Day Heroes....

On this special day when we think of the ladies in our lives my focus is not upon the uncaring political types that I usually write about but on the girls at the Owen Sound Hospital who have been attending to my wife over the last week. As I visit each day I struck by the cheerful and compassionate demeanor of each and every one of them as they take care of multiple patients each with a different need and personality equally as competently at the end of their 12 hour shift as they do at the start.

My old legs ache just after making the trek from the back of the parking lot and return after fighting with the parking ticket machine that begs me with $5 each day before it will let me leave. How must theirs feel after the miles they walk back and forth from room to room all day only to face another day of the same tomorrow all this whilst cheerfully taking care of the sometimes complex needs of each individual in each room. The knowledge and careful attention to detail to correctly administer the prescribed care without error must be quite stressful in and of itself but it is always done with a smile.

A couple of years ago I observed the same competence and caring from a slightly different perspective as I was myself of the receiving end of the care, that time in the ICU where there may be a little less walking for the girls but a more intense need than up on the 6th floor where-my wife is now being cared for. How these girls there and elsewhere in similar departments maintain such a caring and cheerful attitude day after day, year after year for many of them, is beyond me.

Thank you ladies, during what is a stressful time for our family as we learn to deal with further challenges to come it is your care and caring that eases the transition. These few words simply cannot fully express my admiration and thanks for you commitment to this work.

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Sunday, May 5, 2019

It bears repeating ..... again and again!

Is Anyone Listening?
My name is Greta Thunberg. I am 16 years old. I come from Sweden. And I speak on behalf of future generations.
I know many of you don’t want to listen to us – you say we are just children. But we’re only repeating the message of the united climate science.
Many of you appear concerned that we are wasting valuable lesson time, but I assure you we will go back to school the moment you start listening to science and give us a future. Is that really too much to ask?
In the year 2030 I will be 26 years old. My little sister Beata will be 23. Just like many of your own children or grandchildren. That is a great age, we have been told. When you have all of your life ahead of you. But I am not so sure it will be that great for us.
I was fortunate to be born in a time and place where everyone told us to dream big; I could become whatever I wanted to. I could live wherever I wanted to. People like me had everything we needed and more. Things our grandparents could not even dream of. We had everything we could ever wish for and yet now we may have nothing.
Now we probably don’t even have a future any more.
Because that future was sold so that a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money. It was stolen from us every time you said that the sky was the limit, and that you only live once.
You lied to us. You gave us false hope. You told us that the future was something to look forward to. And the saddest thing is that most children are not even aware of the fate that awaits us. We will not understand it until it’s too late. And yet we are the lucky ones. Those who will be affected the hardest are already suffering the consequences. But their voices are not heard.
Is my microphone on? Can you hear me?
Around the year 2030, 10 years 252 days and 10 hours away from now, we will be in a position where we set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control, that will most likely lead to the end of our civilisation as we know it. That is unless in that time, permanent and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society have taken place, including a reduction of CO2 emissions by at least 50%.
And please note that these calculations are depending on inventions that have not yet been invented at scale, inventions that are supposed to clear the atmosphere of astronomical amounts of carbon dioxide.
Furthermore, these calculations do not include unforeseen tipping points and feedback loops like the extremely powerful methane gas escaping from rapidly thawing arctic permafrost.
Nor do these scientific calculations include already locked-in warming hidden by toxic air pollution. Nor the aspect of equity – or climate justice – clearly stated throughout the Paris agreement, which is absolutely necessary to make it work on a global scale.
We must also bear in mind that these are just calculations. Estimations. That means that these “points of no return” may occur a bit sooner or later than 2030. No one can know for sure. We can, however, be certain that they will occur approximately in these timeframes, because these calculations are not opinions or wild guesses.
These projections are backed up by scientific facts, concluded by all nations through the IPCC. Nearly every single major national scientific body around the world unreservedly supports the work and findings of the IPCC.
Did you hear what I just said? Is my English OK? Is the microphone on? Because I’m beginning to wonder.
During the last six months I have travelled around Europe for hundreds of hours in trains, electric cars and buses, repeating these life-changing words over and over again. But no one seems to be talking about it, and nothing has changed. In fact, the emissions are still rising.
When I have been travelling around to speak in different countries, I am always offered help to write about the specific climate policies in specific countries. But that is not really necessary. Because the basic problem is the same everywhere. And the basic problem is that basically nothing is being done to halt – or even slow – climate and ecological breakdown, despite all the beautiful words and promises.
The UK is, however, very special. Not only for its mind-blowing historical carbon debt, but also for its current, very creative, carbon accounting.
Since 1990 the UK has achieved a 37% reduction of its territorial CO2 emissions, according to the Global Carbon Project. And that does sound very impressive. But these numbers do not include emissions from aviation, shipping and those associated with imports and exports. If these numbers are included the reduction is around 10% since 1990 – or an an average of 0.4% a year, according to Tyndall Manchester.

And the main reason for this reduction is not a consequence of climate policies, but rather a 2001 EU directive on air quality that essentially forced the UK to close down its very old and extremely dirty coal power plants and replace them with less dirty gas power stations. And switching from one disastrous energy source to a slightly less disastrous one will of course result in a lowering of emissions.
But perhaps the most dangerous misconception about the climate crisis is that we have to “lower” our emissions. Because that is far from enough. Our emissions have to stop if we are to stay below 1.5-2C of warming. The “lowering of emissions” is of course necessary but it is only the beginning of a fast process that must lead to a stop within a couple of decades, or less. And by “stop” I mean net zero – and then quickly on to negative figures. That rules out most of today’s politics.
The fact that we are speaking of “lowering” instead of “stopping” emissions is perhaps the greatest force behind the continuing business as usual. The UK’s active current support of new exploitation of fossil fuels – for example, the UK shale gas fracking industry, the expansion of its North Sea oil and gas fields, the expansion of airports as well as the planning permission for a brand new coal mine – is beyond absurd.
This ongoing irresponsible behaviour will no doubt be remembered in history as one of the greatest failures of humankind.
People always tell me and the other millions of school strikers that we should be proud of ourselves for what we have accomplished. But the only thing that we need to look at is the emission curve. And I’m sorry, but it’s still rising. That curve is the only thing we should look at.
Every time we make a decision we should ask ourselves; how will this decision affect that curve? We should no longer measure our wealth and success in the graph that shows economic growth, but in the curve that shows the emissions of greenhouse gases. We should no longer only ask: “Have we got enough money to go through with this?” but also: “Have we got enough of the carbon budget to spare to go through with this?” That should and must become the centre of our new currency.
Many people say that we don’t have any solutions to the climate crisis. And they are right. Because how could we? How do you “solve” the greatest crisis that humanity has ever faced? How do you “solve” a war? How do you “solve” going to the moon for the first time? How do you “solve” inventing new inventions?
The climate crisis is both the easiest and the hardest issue we have ever faced. The easiest because we know what we must do. We must stop the emissions of greenhouse gases. The hardest because our current economics are still totally dependent on burning fossil fuels, and thereby destroying ecosystems in order to create everlasting economic growth.
“So, exactly how do we solve that?” you ask us – the schoolchildren striking for the climate.
And we say: “No one knows for sure. But we have to stop burning fossil fuels and restore nature and many other things that we may not have quite figured out yet.”
Then you say: “That’s not an answer!”
So we say: “We have to start treating the crisis like a crisis – and act even if we don’t have all the solutions.”
“That’s still not an answer,” you say.
Then we start talking about circular economy and rewilding nature and the need for a just transition. Then you don’t understand what we are talking about.
We say that all those solutions needed are not known to anyone and therefore we must unite behind the science and find them together along the way. But you do not listen to that. Because those answers are for solving a crisis that most of you don’t even fully understand. Or don’t want to understand.
You don’t listen to the science because you are only interested in solutions that will enable you to carry on like before. Like now. And those answers don’t exist any more. Because you did not act in time.
Avoiding climate breakdown will require cathedral thinking. We must lay the foundation while we may not know exactly how to build the ceiling.
Sometimes we just simply have to find a way. The moment we decide to fulfil something, we can do anything. And I’m sure that the moment we start behaving as if we were in an emergency, we can avoid climate and ecological catastrophe. Humans are very adaptable: we can still fix this. But the opportunity to do so will not last for long. We must start today. We have no more excuses.
We children are not sacrificing our education and our childhood for you to tell us what you consider is politically possible in the society that you have created. We have not taken to the streets for you to take selfies with us, and tell us that you really admire what we do.
We children are doing this to wake the adults up. We children are doing this for you to put your differences aside and start acting as you would in a crisis. We children are doing this because we want our hopes and dreams back.
I hope my microphone was on. I hope you could all hear me.

Full text of the speech Greta Thunberg gave to MPs at the British Houses of Parliament

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