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, April 28, 2019

The Future of Democracy (repost)

This previously published bit from 2009 in which Steve May's series is highlighted perhaps shows how little things have changed in 10 years. Much of his series is focused upon “green” issues (and even more relevant now than previously) but the following is food for thought regarding where are we going with this Parliamentary Democracy of ours.

Changing Public Opinion through Education.Seems like this is going to be a generational project, as public education requires time and energy, and is best accomplished through education which begins at home with children and continues through meaningful exposure through our school systems. The good news here is that we have been largely turning out a good number of critical thinkers in the recent decades who understand and acknowledge the perils we face to a greater degree than do most. So, we’ve already got a bit of an advantage here. It’s too bad that many of the youngest in our society are disadvantaged by mounting debts, and disengaged from the political process and our civil society, which often dismissively shuns their involvement. Given our aging demographic, this doesn’t really come as a surprise.

Indeed education is the key but we must ensure that it is FACTUAL not political spin that the public, and more importantly our youth receives!
Leaders Must Initiate a Public Discussion About the FutureRight now, our governmental Leaders have been completely ducking these discussions. Other leaders, though, are stepping up throughout all sectors of our society, and are trying to engage Canadians. While the media has largely ignored these efforts to plan for our increasingly local futures, the momentum is clearly in place. Our elected Leaders need to play some catch up. Shifting public opinion will be their impetus to do so.This discussion must begin quickly, and it needs to take place in an unbiased manner, based on fact and not conjecture.

I am very much afraid that the majority of our POLITICAL leaders will do NOTHING that would change the status quo unless it is forced upon them by public opinion and pressure from the minority of us who see these issues as a threat to the future of our democracy as we know it. We have many politicians but darn few Leaders!
Sweeping Legislative ChangesThe tools for implementation will require sweeping changes to federal and provincial legislation, and that’s not going to happen over night, especially when the public service is going to be focused on cuts. However, these changes will be needed to force the agenda. Pressure to do so must be unrelenting: from the public, from the business community, from other levels of government, from the media.

Again Steve is aiming more at legislation to implement changes related to Climate Change but the same discussion must take place regarding how we are governed in general.

There are many impediments to changing our laws, even when there is a laser-beam focus to do so. Some things to consider:-Abolish the Senate in case they decide to hold legislative changes up (provincial governments don’t have Senates anyway; we won’t have the luxury for this Chamber any longer...plus, think of the cost savings). If abolishing it won’t work, then suspend it.

Despite the recent revelations on the excessive, perhaps obscene is a better descriptions, expenses of some senators I really believe that we must retain the second chamber in order to put at least some checks upon government proposals, something which at this point does not seem to be happening in the HoC. If we ever get to the point where parliament starts working as it should and discussion and compromise become the norm not the exception, then perhaps there may be room to drastically reduce the Senate. There is not much doubt that there needs to be changes in the way the senators are selected, their term in office and upon the expectations of value for compensation received, but this check upon poorly conceived or worded legislation is still needed at this time..

-Stop the practice of partisan politics and restore meaningful debate to parliament. A bit of a tall order to say the least, but we can do this if we elect fewer politicians who are in Parliament to play games.-Adopt a much more representative form of government which is based on proportional representation. This must be a priority, although we often think it will take time. It doesn’t have to. Our elected officials can just do it. And should.

Agreed, but just about impossible to actually implement, all we can do is keep letting those in power know that partisan politics is unacceptable. We elect individuals to represent us not Partys.

Give Local Governments the Powers They NeedThere will need to be greater partnerships with all levels of government. This includes municipal governments, who are going to be tasked with delivering at least part of the mandate. Municipalities will need to receive real powers from senior levels of government, and finally transition from "creatures of the province" to "mature levels of government". Municipal elected officials must assume this responsibility with foresight and in good faith: they must acknowledge that they will be under a greater degree of public scrutiny, which is as it should be, if municipalities are given the power to tax. Power comes with responsibility. Deal with it.

A VERY complex subject given our current mix of what services are provided by which level of government, and which of those provides the funding and criteria for said services. I agree in principal but the devil is in the details on this one!
UrgencyI’ll say it again: All of this must occur within the context of a sense of impending urgency. Some have suggested something akin to a "wartime mobilization"; I’d like to see a little more thought than that go into it, but really I’m still talking about significant action being discussed over a very short period of time (say 6 months) and then action being implemented quickly. If we’ve learned one thing from the Stimulus spending, it’s that it’s not always as quick to make decisions or implement them as we might like it to be, however, it can still be done.

The longer it takes for Parliamentary and Electoral reform, or to tackle Climate Change issues, the further down that slippery slope towards an irreversible situation we get and the harder it will be to turn back.
Take Personal ResponsibilityYou must take personal responsibility as a member of your family, your community, your province and nation. You must educate yourself to the point where you have a decent understanding of the challenges we are faced with. You must act in concert with the emergent consensus. You must acknowledge that the consequences of inaction are too great to consider…………..

Indeed, each of us must not sit back and ignore these important issues, be it Climate Change as Steve is alluding to, or the demise of our Democracy that I am equally concerned about.
Extracted from Part IX http://sudburysteve.blogspot.com/2009/11/future-of-democracy-in-canada-

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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A Long and Very Scary List

Antonia Zerbisias is keeping a list. She's counting the things that Doug Ford is doing to make the lives of  "the people" more miserable: Here’s the list thus far. Thanks to Debra Gallant, Antonia Zerbisias and Kev Holman for it’s beginnings. This is what Doug Ford has done since July, 2018. I’ll keep adding to it. 

1. Killed Cap & Trade resulting in between $3B and $4B in lost revenue (not including lawsuits). *edited
2. Fired Privatization Officer
3. Fired Chief scientist
4. Fired Investment Officer
5. Refused assistance to asylum seekers
6. Killed legislation to reduce scalping prices
7. Killed Bill 175 updating the police service act (police oversight legislation)
8. Delayed Immunization reporting rules
9. Ends electric & hydrogen vehicle incentive program
10. Cut the budget for school repairs
11. Cut 700+ green projects ($100M to shut down 1 wind farm alone)
12. Rolled sex ed back to 1998
13. Cancelled TRC school curriculum after it had already been researched, paid for and was ready to put in place.
14. Cuts Toronto City council in half during an election campaign.
15. Cut promised 3% increase for OW & ODSP & will change definition of disability, leading to further poverty.
16. Basic Income pilot project stopped
17. Considers no more minimum wage increase (considering rolling back implemented wage increase in 2020)
18. Reduced Pharmacare availability
19. Cuts funding for guide dogs for visually impaired
20. Cuts advanced age allowance for elderly
21. Common law changes deleted
22. Cuts to funds to repair social housing
23. Cancellation of opening new overdose prevention sites
24. Buck a beer at taxpayer expense.
25. Launches “Ontario News Now”, a third world style propaganda news site payed for by taxpayers.
26. Reneges on $500,000 for after school music program for kids at risk
27. Muzzles civil servants from using words “climate change” in any social media release
28. Removal of For Profit Maximum Threshold - big box day care coming
29. Fired Howard Sapers - Correctional Reform
30. Fired Frank Iacobucci re: ring of fire consultations
31. Dismissed - high speed board
32. Sued by and lost to Tesla
33. Sued by teachers re: Sex ed
34. Sued by City of Toronto re: Bill 5 / 31
35. Streamlining rules to allow for faster passage of Bills (less debated etc.)
36. Governance deficiency results in downgrade of Hydro One credit rating (interest on debt rises)
37. Invokes s33 of the Charter for the 1st time in Ontario
38. Back to work legislation for CUPE 3903
39. Regulations re: vaping put on hold
40. Mental health funding cut by $1.34B over four years* Udpated
41. Snitch line to complain about teachers introduced
42. Indigenous and ESL language training for schools cut
43. Stops the ban on back end payment mutual funds (cheap up front a mess at the end)
44. Proposed safe injection sites put on hold (google Naloxone)
45. 2 of 4 credit rating agencies downgrade Ontario from stable to negative.
46. Disbanded Anti-Racism Directorate and all sub-committees
47. Stopped WSIB UFL 10 years ahead of recommendation of the Auditor General
48. Considers govt takeover of TTC
49. Cut WSIB payments to injured workers by 30%
50. Kills Bill C-148 which gave p/t workers the same pay as f/t, guaranteed 10 days off (2 paid) & other benefits (reducing bereavement days to TWO days)
51. Ends the Drive Clean program.
52. Paused the parents reaching out program - funding for parent councils for schools including breakfast programs and assisting with tutoring.
53. Cancels or postpones 33% increase to shelters
54. Cost approx $35M to fight the federal carbon tax
55. Cuts French Language Commissioner
56. Cancels plans for French Language University
57. Promise not kept - allows pot dispensaries within 150m of schools (oppose Libs 450 m rule)
58. Shuts down College of Trades (who had a 20M reserve fund i.e. operating at a surplus)*edited
59. Removes rent control. No rent control for new units (not previously rented)
60. Reduces oversight on the Environment
61. Will not implement tax increase on 1% ($275M in lost revenue) Cut $2.7 billion in tax revenue but only shaved $500 million off the deficit. *edited April
62. Appoints OPP Commissioner of questionable qualifications (& lied about pulling strings to put said long time friend in charge of the OPP) *investigation ongoing. Taverner has since stepped down
63. Pulled the plug on expert panel to end violence against women. * edited Feb16
64. Overruling Hydro One Board’s selection for CEO (see #87)
65. Ontario Chief Accountant resigned after she refused to sign off on Finance Minister Vic Fedeli's inflated $15B deficit. Veinot has been blocked from testifying by the PC party.
66. Cut protections for water, food, childcare safety and opened up the greenbelt to development (Greenbelt development currently on hold) *edited
67. Cut all funding for the College of Midwives (retroactively)
68. Cut funding for Indigenous Cultural Fund
69. Cut funding for Friendship Centres
70. $5M slashed from Ontario Arts Council (retroactively)
71. Limits grant for post secondary education, reduces tuition by placing cost on universities and colleges
72. Ends the gap time for repayment of student loans
73. Dissolving LHINs (Local Health Integration Networks) & replacing with no more than 5 oversight bodies) *
74. Pander to Hunters with odd reduction in permits and proposed Double Crested Cormorant cull.
75. Appoints friends to Boards with exceptional salaries
76. Bill 66 - allows municipalities to ignore environmental, heath and safety regulations
77. Consideration of ending regulations to protect endangered species to allow for development
78. Looking for additional $1B to cuts in education
79. Offered $150K to 97 year-old Hazel McCallion as advisor- who pressured Wynn for years to open the Greenbelt to development. McCallion turned position down. *edited
80. Removes electric vehicle chargers from GO station parking lots.
81. Considers removing caps on kindergarten, primary class sizes. Will not guarantee full day kindergarten in 2019. *
82. Removed “red tape” for farmers. (Details TBA) (backed down in section 10)
83. “Streamlines” Landlord Tenant Board. (more to follow)
85. Decision made to appeal the Robinson Huron Treaty claim, after feds agreed not to.
86. Promoted white supremacy and paid zero political price for it.
87. Costs HydroOne $136M in termination fees to Avista and $49M in commissions as a direct result of govt meddling in a $4.4B merger. Hydro One posted a $227M profit in it’s most recent quarter. Growth strategy now toast. see #64.
88. The “keep it off the books” (and paid for by the OPP) personalized camper van request.
89. Backed out of gender identity debate.
90. Refuses to honour funding for sexual assault centres.
91. Fired children's advocate, and closed Ontario Child Advocate’s Office. Elman found out through the media his office had been closed.
92. Scrapped funding for three satellite University campuses citing deficit (see #65)
93. Scrapped the Social Impact bonds issued by the previous government to help pay for social programs.
94. Increased their own monthly housing allowance over 20% (retroactive to July 2018) to combat inflated costs. (see #59)
95. $8M first year loss at OCS (Ontario Cannabis Store)
96. Strips protections for apprentices (1:1 ratio apprentices to skilled tradesmen) therefore placing ALL workers under risk. See injury rates in B.C.
97. Cuts in pay for family doctors working in new primary care models in Ontario (introduced to counter the shortage of docs in 2000)
99. Took credit for CAMH expansion (on Bell Help Day)
100. Docs uncovered by the minority NDP party of a total revamp of the healthcare system with a two-tier privatization system for Ontario residents (done behind closed doors). Records indicate it is already a DONE DEAL.
101. Ford calls on the OPP to investigate #100
102. OPS employee who leaked health docs is fired.
103. Calls on Fed Govt to end all tariffs on steel and aluminum.
104. As part of the OSAP changes, announced a provision making compulsory, non-academic fees optional (hurting much-needed support services to students, and more to the point student unions) with the comment "I think we all know what kind of crazy Marxist nonsense student unions get up to.” *Edited March
105. Pushes to privatize Ontario Place.
106. As per #83 cuts eviction notice time to 6 days, allow private bailiffs to remove renters.
107. Illegally cancelled the Task Force (which made reconciliation possible) that resulted from the OPSEU College Faculty strike in Fall 2017. Sued by task force.
108. Announces plan to upload TTC subways to province spring of 2019, and increase fares. (see #48)
109. Huge cuts and changes announced to Autism funding and entire program with no clear path forward.
110. ONTABA threatened by MacLeod to provide a quote of support for the govt’s new (vaguely revealed) program. Threatens with “four long years” if they don’t endorse changes. ONTABA not consulted in new program after requesting numerous times to meet with MacLeod since last fall. Parents are being asked to sign non-disclosure agreements before they can make an appointment with their local MPP
*April 2019*
111. Appoints failed PC candidate to NEW FULL-TIME position as Chair of the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) at $140,000 per year (previously a part time less than $5000/year position)
112. Significant reduction in oversight of policing
113. Shuts down The Local Planning Appeal Support Centre that helps citizens challenge big developers
114. Fires OPP Deputy Commissioner, who challenged the appointment of a Ford family friend as Commissioner & was in charge of his brother’s file.
115. Devastating changes to the education system, incl. increased class sizes, mandatory e-learning and the removal of $700M in funding from Ontario high schools. Thousands of teachers will lose their jobs.
116. Supporting systemic discrimination in ON Children Rehabilitation (https://odcoalition.com/…)
117. Redefines what determines a disability.
118. 30% cut to Legal Aid. $133M reduction to funding this year; will no longer cover refugee and immigration programs. Will be followed by an additional $31M cut in 2020.
119. Moves to semi-privatize health care in Ontario. PLANNED CUTS TO OHIP: Plan to cut OHIP-covered services by $500M.
120. April 9, Democracy Watch released the letter sent to Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé calling for an investigation into Ford’s Chief of Staff Dean French (and others) and former deputy minister Steve Orsini providing preferential treatment to Ford’s friend Ron Taverner, and also to Mario Di Tomasso and Chris Froggatt, which would violate the provincial government ethics law.
121. Dismantles CANCER CARE ONTARIO.
122. Cut the Indigenous Affairs budget by 50%. (more than $70M in slashed funding).
123. Moves to legalize tail-gate parties. (I have no better way to say this. Sorry.), drinking in public parks, hours from 9am, free drinks, happy hour adverts, etc.
*alcohol was referred to 60 times in the new budget. Education 25 times.*
124. Rebranding the province's visual identity including the official government logo and slogan, licence plates and drivers’ licences. Will include new commercial licence plates with slogan “Open For Business”
125. Allocates 40M to horse race industry.
126. Open up online gambling opportunities (not sure what this means exactly), push to allow betting on single-game (currently prohibited under the Federal criminal code)
127. *Make Ontario a world class Combat Sport Destination.* (I really wish I was kidding)
126. Forces gas station owners to display stickers against the carbon tax. Will impose heavy fines (10K/day) on owners failing to comply.
NOTE: In a profoundly undemocratic move, the Ford government has refused the Ontario Health Coalition entry into the budget lock up April 11, 2019 for the first time ever. The Coalition has been in the budget lock up for decades (through multiple govts). Other organizations were also refused access for the first time.

A tip of the hat to Owen at Northern Reflections for bringing this to those of us who 'do not do' facebook, I am sure the list will become MUCH longer before the Frord regime is done.

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Sunday, April 21, 2019

Lies & Spin (repost)

In a political landscape where lies and spin is the norm we must thank and support those individuals who do not fall prey to this insidious trend, and condemn and publicly identify those who do.”
The above quote from the following 2010 article is just as relevant today as it was then, perhaps more so and applies to ALL levels of government!

Here is James Travers this week on the ever decreasing “truth” of information coming from our politicians of all stripes:-
It’s a revealing quirk that the word that best describes how politics is practiced here is banned from Parliament. The words is “lie” and in any other place it would be firmly fixed to everything from the flimsy justification for gutting the census to the bogus boast that the country is tracking towards balanced budgets.
Let’s be perfectly honest: Sometime before the Millennium, “spin” crept into the political vernacular as an elastic substitute for “truth”. Old promises were recycled as new, brush was furiously dragged across the money trail and governments flying both red and blue colours found ever more inventive ways to frustrate the public’s right to know.
Since then little lies have grown into the Big Lie. This fall alone Conservatives have been exposed here for grossly inflating wispy resistance to the mandatory long-form census and caught out at the United Nations for making the imaginative declaration that Canada is back up front on the world stage.”

The article continues to say that its not just the Conservatives “spinning” the truth but that the opposition is party to this troubling trend in our nations capital. Indeed the term “Honest Politician” is rapidly becoming an oxymoron, and that’s a shame and a disservice to the few MPs who truly do try to be honest, open and accountable.
This week we also had another indication that fact and information must not get in the way of spin and lies. Those civil servants that attempt to make public their concerns on such matters were supposed to have at least a little protection against political pressure to dismiss or demote them should they point out some wrongdoing or misinformation by the government of the day. To that end a Public Sector Integrity Commissioner was appointed some 2 or 3 years ago to listen to, and rule upon complaints by the civil service regarding such matters, but now it would seem that even within this office something very fishy is going on.

The country’s public sector integrity commissioner has retired from her post just as the federal auditor general has launched her probe into the commissioner’s office amid operational complaints.
Christiane Ouimet, the federal whistleblower watchdog who hasn’t produced any recommendations or found any wrongdoing in her three years on the job, announced Wednesday she is “retiring” four years before her term is set to expire. “
Ouimet's job was to protect public service whistleblowers, and investigate complaints of wrongdoing. But she found no evidence of any wrongdoing whatsoever in any of the 170 complaints her office handled since Stephen Harper appointed her in 2007. It was all "nothing to see here, move along" from the get-go. Guess who one of the complainants was? Sean Bruyea. Name ring a bell?

Ouimet was also, it seems, a rare pleasure to work for. In one twelve-month period, 18 of her office's 22 employees left. (tip o the hat to Dr Dawg on that one)
It seems that there were in fact thousands of complaints but only 170 were elevated to the status of “official” complaints and of those only a handful made it much further through the process and as was pointed out above NONE were found to have any merit. I find that VERY hard to believe, between that and all the staff quitting it is clear that the civil servant actually had NO protection and I am sure word spread quickly and had a chilling effect upon those individuals on OUR payroll who wished to point out a problem in government.

We must be very grateful that we have a strong Auditor General, Sheila Fraser, who, it would seem, is determined to do her job in an ethical, open and timely manner. Sort of reminds one of Kevin Page over at the Parliamentary Budget Office doesn’t it. I wonder how long it will be before her budget gets cut and she has difficulty obtaining information necessary to do her job?

In a political landscape where lies and spin is the norm we must thank and support those individuals who do not fall prey to this insidious trend, and condemn and publicly identify those who do.

Talking of Lies here is one of the most blatant as pointed out by our friend Impolitical:-
This from John Baird
“Mr. Speaker, this government, when it comes to administrating the public's business, always acts with great, high ethical standards, openness, transparency and fairness. Those are all the principles. When it comes to standing up for Canada, this government has no price. We will always do what is right for this great country.”

If you believe that, please contact me regarding some ocean view property I have for sale in Saskatchewan........

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Sunday, April 14, 2019

Threats to Democracy (repost)

“An obstacle to democracy is that the value of its name often exceeds the principles of its practice.”

From an old speech by former MP David Kilgore - In his speech, of which this is but a few small extracts, he was talking about democracy across the world but it is applicable to our own democracy, particularly given recent events.

In 1947, Winston Churchill said: "Many forms of government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect... Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." Churchill’s words were prophetic.

Democracy is a difficult and necessarily arduous process. It is about citizens and states organizing through an institutional core in a common effort for societal betterment and justice. We democrats know that our system is not easy; nor has it been perfected. But it is in this very difficulty and imperfection that the strengths of democracy are present. It is in our struggle to maintain the democratic systems some have enjoyed for hundreds of years; it is in our fight to consolidate flourishing new democracies. Indeed in gatherings such as this one the richness and strengths of the democratic process are evident………..

Threats to Democracy
If there is one overriding truth about democracy, it is that it is precious but vulnerable. The twentieth century shows that the enemies of democracy are as numerous as they are threatening. Over the course of my 21 years as a parliamentarian and through travels as Canada’s Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa, I have witnessed many threats to democracy. While many are obvious, the most dangerous are subtle. It is not empty stomachs, impunity or corruption alone that necessarily jeopardize democracy; it is their accumulated effects. The greatest threat to democracy does not always come from the barrel of a gun, but from the collected effects of poverty, apathy, and economic insecurity.

Another obstacle to democracy is that the value of its name often exceeds the principles of its practice. The past century demonstrated that the banner of democracy was used to sustain just about any system. Democracy does not include oppression, corruption, division, segregation, terror and murder. A genuinely democratic nation thrives on diversity and difference, through which it builds on its collective wisdom and strengths. We must now forge a new trail in the twenty-first century where the merits of democracy are not in its name alone, but in its non-negotiable, irrefutable truths……………..

Rule of Law
Fundamental to a healthy democracy is a strong judiciary. Alexander Hamilton noted that there could be no liberty if the power of the judiciary is not separated from the legislative and executive branches of government. In some cases, the tyranny of legislatures was considered to be the most formidable impediment to the proper development and functioning of constitutional democracy.

In Canada we feel that an independent judiciary, with real power to review acts passed by legislators, is a safeguard against potential harms that may be caused to the rights of individuals. The rule of law and independent judiciaries, consistent with international human rights standards, are not present in all democracies. Judges are dismissed in some jurisdictions if they do not pass judgments that are acceptable to the government, and more obsequious replacements are found. There may be threats of violence against judges in order to persuade them to act in accordance to the will of a dictator. Under these conditions, there can be no impartiality as judges must choose between their own personal safety and the rights of an individual or a group of individuals. This is an extreme example; but more subtle means are deployed by regimes that seek to project an image of a constitutional democracy, and yet rule as a dictatorship of the legislature or executive.

Striking an appropriate balance between majority rule and protection of individual and minorities’ rights is one of democracy’s most enduring challenges. John Locke expressed the notion of inalienable rights in a society: those rights which are so fundamental to the well being and happiness of an individual that a state has very limited rights to infringe upon them. In more modern times these inalienable rights have taken the title of fundamental rights or human rights in the perspective of international law. One needs only to look at a newspaper to find instances where individual and group rights are being infringed.

Democracy’s reliance on a vigorous judiciary makes it possible for minorities and marginalized groups within a state to live peacefully as full members of society. Such groups are no less entitled to live a happy and fulfilling life than those of us who had been lucky enough to be born into freedom. All nations give their judges and lawyers the authority to ensure justice for all, even in the face of mob anger and prejudice.

Canada, Multilateralism and Democracy
What has Canada learned from its experiences in the Commonwealth, the OAS and La Francophonie? I think that we first have concluded that there is no single model for how to address threats to democracy. In the contexts of the Commonwealth and the Americas, CMAG and the OAS have respectively worked well. For Canada, engaging global partners in democracy through multilateral institutions has been our preferred approach.

The second conclusion is that each threat to democracy must be addressed in its own context. In many cases, the best approach is one of what we might call accompaniment. That is, we need to be supportive of local initiatives and ideas on how to strengthen democracy and send a message that external actors are there to support, and not necessarily to force change. Wherever possible, we should let local actors take the lead in resolving their own challenges. In other cases, however, particularly when there are violations of fundamental principles, we must be prepared to take stronger measures. This again argues against universal models, but instead supports the idea of taking a country-level approach to democracy strengthening.

Third, our experience has shown that while in a few cases, threats to democracy can be resolved in short order, most of the time, we must travel a long road and have patience. As external supporters, we need to be ready to listen, enter into dialogue, and provide technical advice and assistance where needed, and be willing to do so over an extended period.

Finally, we must always be careful that in our efforts to be creative and supportive, we do not compromise basic principles or offer bad advice, and keep our actions in-line with the promotion and protection of human rights consistent with international human rights law. Otherwise, we will not have democracy and we will have betrayed the people we are trying to help. While the threats to democracy may seem great, we must never let them overwhelm us. As I stated earlier, the strength of democracy is in the struggle. It is a struggle to build the conditions in which democracy can grow and it is a continual struggle to maintain it where it is strong. With a full appreciation and understanding of what threatens democracy, let us continue the critical endeavour of strengthening it.

David Kilgour was one of the two longest-serving MPs in the House of Commons for the 38th Parliament. First elected in 1979 in the riding of Edmonton Strathcona, he was re-elected seven times.

Unfortunately we cannot dismiss his comments as being only applicable for emerging democracy’s when our government is constantly challenging our courts, our “independent” watchdog commissions and departments and indeed even our electoral processes!

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Sunday, April 7, 2019

Democracy Defined

This blog was started about a decade ago to highlight the lack of respect for our democratic conventions by the then second term Harper Regime and to highlight efforts to protect and enhance our system of governance. The change of federal leadership in 2015 gave me hope that the years of abuse were coming to an end and for a while there it was looking promising with the attempt to bring in a more equatable electoral system and a more diverse members of cabinet. Sadly the first item fell by the wayside and the latter is now in tatters due, at least in part, to the inability of two strong minded individuals to back down and / or compromise. I will not comment further on that particular mess there is more than enough opinion available on that out there, I will however expand upon how the interaction between the public, our elected representatives (of all stripes), the leader of the day and his appointed 'cabinet' , both provincial and federally, and our democratic norms is changing..... and not for the better.

One of the things that a change in the way we elect or representatives may have affected the balance of power both in the various legislatures across our nation and within our national government is the amount of influence those individuals we elect actual have within government. Back in 2009 in one of my first posts entitled MP or Party, Which comes first? I wrote “ The respondents to the forum on Public Consultations on Canada’s Democratic Institutions and Practices were of the opinion political parties are generally perceived as non-accountable, as neither good nor especially honest in communicating. Aspersions were cast on the quality, clarity, and ethical integrity of party platforms. “ Further on in the article I said “We have seen in recent time how, when an MP votes or speaks out against his party in support of his constituents he or she is censured by that party, often to the point of expulsion. As an independent they have even less resources and influence available to them to do their job …..”

How little things have changed ! Here in Ontario in the first year of their 'mandate' the Ford Regime is already down four of those individuals who dared to disagree with the blustering mouthpiece we call the premier and although there are over 70, mostly previously unelected, individuals in this 'new' legislature hardy a word has been heard from any of them. Said blustering fool and his unelected advisers are busy dismantling many of our hard won heath, education and social support systems and unlike in the federal system he does so with no further 'Upper House' checks. His actions thus far have been perhaps the best support for Electoral reform and the probable minority governments that would result. Our federal government seems to be doing their best to encourage change by default right now however I suspect that the change we will get will not be to our liking given the partisan inclination of ALL our political 'elite'.

Democracy Defined.......As mentioned above I dived back to some of my posts about democracy way back in 2009 and in rereading some of those articles now I find that whilst my opinions have largely remained unchanged I had a much clearer way of expressing those views than I am able to cobble together now in my dotage! I encourage you to scroll through a few of those posts (the entire list is available by date and title in the side bar) but here are a few brief extracts about democracy to get you interest.

Woodruff says:
Democracy is a beautiful idea - government by and for the people. Democracy promises us the freedom to exercise our highest capacities while it protects us from our own worst tendencies. In democracy as it ought to be, all adults are free to chime in, to join the conversation on how they should arrange their life together. And no one is left free to enjoy the unchecked power that leads to arrogance and abuse. Like many beautiful ideas, however, democracy travels though our minds shadowed by its doubles - bad ideas that are close enough to be easily mistaken for the real thing. …......

8 Principals of Electoral Systems
An electoral system is legitimate when it reflects the values of the voting public. Even if you’re not happy with the outcome of an election, you can accept it as legitimate if the electoral system is based on principles that most people value.
In effect, legitimacy is the result or consequence of a good electoral system. If a system reflects the seven remaining principles, it is bound to be legitimate.

Political Parties Forum Overview
The general image emerging from the forums is one of parties losing attention and respect from their potential clientele or members. They are generally perceived as non-accountable and, in some instances, as secret.
Parties were generally characterized as not immensely interested in recruiting members or hearing from ordinary citizens. They are perceived as neither good nor especially honest in communicating. Aspersions were cast on the quality, clarity, and ethical integrity of party platforms.

There is much more to be said on this subject in light of recent events both provincially and federally much of which I have probably touched upon at one time or another in the past 10 years. However given my difficulty in rationally dissecting the current collective political cluster fuck I will simply be highlighting and commenting upon a few of my past articles in the foreseeable future.

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