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Democracy Under Fire: Electoral Reform Committee Now More Democratic

Liberal MPs will throw their support behind NDP MP Nathan Cullen’s counter-proposal to divvy up the seats around the committee table based on the share of the vote parties received in the last election.
That works out to five Liberals, three Conservatives, two New Democrats and one each for the Bloc Quebecois and the Green Party’s Elizabeth May, all of whom will have full voting rights.
That means the government will have to garner the support of at least one other party to win a vote at the committee table.”

I am very pleased to see that the Liberals have finaly seen the wisdom of NOT having a majority vote on the committee to recommend changes to our voting system. As I have said before it is important that any decision must not only be non partisan but must be seen to be non partisan, the new makeup of the committee goes a long way to ensuring that.

Perhaps now the committee can have a discussion about ALL the various systems available without the spurious allegations that this system or that flavors this party or that. There is little doubt that ‘proportional systems will enhance the possibility of smaller partys (particularly the Greens) of getting more seats in The House but I believe that the more diverse make up of voting members will result in a much better outcome.

Now lets get the process started and not rush the public consultation part of the deliberations where almost everyone who has really studied the options is just as torn between the choices as will be the committee members. I do not envy then their work on this!

. . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Electoral Reform Committee Now More Democratic

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Responsible Government #nlpoli

Many of you may not have heard of Jerry Dean until this past week.Jerry is from Botwood. Last fall the people on Exploits district elected him as their member in the House of Assembly.  He’s been a around the block a bit.  His official biogra… . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Responsible Government #nlpoli

Democracy Under Fire: Electoral Reform – Choosing the Committee Members

This week the government has announced the structure of the all party parliamentary committee that will study what electoral system reforms will be put before parliament. Unfortunately they did not accept suggestions that said committee should not have a majority members from any political party (in this instance the Liberals). As several commentators have said, myself included, this leaves them wide open to being accused of swaying the outcome to their own particular preference. Indeed such accusations are already being made before the actual members of said committee have even been selected, true a member of the Bloc and Ms May representing the greens are to be included BUT as ex-officio members with no voting rights. We have yet to see exactly who will be on said committee or how they will be selected.

It seems to me that given these two ex-officio members a say in the actual outcome would even thing out by giving the committee with three Tories and a single NDP MP versus 6 Liberal members a more even and less partisan appearance. I will say here that I personally prefer the ranked ballot favoured by the Libs and, despite being a Green Party member do not agree with their stance as preferring “proportional representation” (although that term is meaningless without also saying what method of obtaining that outcome you favour), I do trust Ms May to make decisions and recommendations only after fully reviewing all the options. I just feel that such an important decision must not only be free of partisan interference but must be seen and perceived as such.

Whilst the actual voting system is getting all the attention thus far it must be remembered that the committee is also charged will examining several other aspects of our voting system including the physical manner in which we vote and identification of voters. In that regard I note that Ontario has said its trial of using modern technology to improve the process has been deemed a success and be recommended for adoption for future elections in Ontario.

If Elections Ontario has its way it will require 41 per cent fewerstaff when the province goes to the polls in 2018 — yet voters will cast ballots faster and get results more quickly.
A substantial investment in new technology is the key to delivering these efficiencies, and Chief Electoral Officer Greg Essensa is urging Queen’s Park to spend $36 million on new gear. This represents a solid investment in democracy, one that should be undertaken soon since it will take about two years to put the proposed new system in place.
Rather than having voters line up at tables while polling station workers look up each name on a paper record, staff would use electronic poll books in the form of a laptop or computer tablet. These can instantly scan a voter’s notice of registration card, significantly speeding up the process.
Furthermore, instead of marking a conventional ballot, electors would indicate their choice on a sheet that would then be electronically scanned by a vote tabulator. It’s a fast and highly accurate system. With this, Elections Ontario estimates it could report 90 per cent of results within about half an hour of polls closing.
Whilst I would love to be able to vote electronically either at the voting booth of from home via the internet there is one seemingly insurmountable problem with getting such a system – veryfiability – both at the time and after the fact so the above system seems like a good compromise.

One issue that I hope both Ontario and the Committee will consider closely is the design of the paper (card?) ballot bearing in mind that it should be both simple to understand and mark and machine readable, the ballots used in the past where tabulating machines were used were far from ideal and depending upon the system selected for federal elections could become much more complex.

The Government’s main objective is to replace first-past-the-post with a system that will deliver better governments for all Canadians and asks the committee to focus on five key principles to get this done:

  1. The link between voter intention and election results;
    ii) How to foster civility in politics and increase voter participation;
    iii) Steps to strengthen inclusiveness and accessibility;
    iv) Ways to safeguard the integrity of our voting system; and,
    v) Taking into account local representation.

They also have said they haveseveral other objectives on this file but its unclear if they will be included in the committees study! . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Electoral Reform – Choosing the Committee Members

Alex's Blog: Alex’s Blog 2016-05-12 18:36:30

A couple of days back, Ed Broadbent, Hugh Segal and I published an op-ed making the case for some form of proportional representation. Yesterday the government announced its process for assessing a range of options, making 2015 the last federal election under our first past the post system. And today the editorial pages are awash … Continue reading . . . → Read More: Alex’s Blog: Alex’s Blog 2016-05-12 18:36:30

Politics, Re-Spun: Parlez-Vous Contempt?

Comment? Conservative contempt for democracy, representation, culture, and people not like themselves [really really white!] does not end with Harper or #TheNewHarper. This new francophone minister, the anglophone Squires, not only clings to her talking points as if her political life depends on it [which it does], but she also waxes unironically about herself, showing … Continue reading Parlez-Vous Contempt?

. . . → Read More: Politics, Re-Spun: Parlez-Vous Contempt?

Politics, Re-Spun: Parlez-Vous Contempt?

Comment? Conservative contempt for democracy, representation, culture, and people not like themselves [really really white!] does not end with Harper or #TheNewHarper. This new francophone minister, the anglophone Squires, not only clings to her talking points as if her political life depends on it [which it does], but she also waxes unironically about herself, showing … Continue reading Parlez-Vous Contempt?

. . . → Read More: Politics, Re-Spun: Parlez-Vous Contempt?

Saskboy's Abandoned Stuff: It’s Saskatchewan’s Election Day

I basically stopped writing about the Saskatchewan election on my blog following the hair pulling, anti-democratic decision by CBC and its consortium of TV broadcasters to block most party leaders from debating with Wall and Broten. So we’ll go another 4 years not knowing how those two shouty leaders behave when there are adults in […] . . . → Read More: Saskboy’s Abandoned Stuff: It’s Saskatchewan’s Election Day

Democracy Under Fire: When is our raise coming?

Members of Parliament and senators will get a $3,000 increase Friday in their base salary, while cabinet ministers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will receive a larger raise – at a time when Canadians are struggling with stagnant wages and rising unemployment.
The wage hike of 1.8 per cent for MPs and 2.1 per cent for senators is about four times what the federal government has offered public sector unions and executives in the federal public service……………..
Federal legislation automatically gives MPs an annual pay hike on April 1 that’s equal to the average percentage increase negotiated by unions with 500 or more employees in the private sector. The data are published by Employment and Social Development Canada.
The pay hike for MPs is nearly double the average increase of one per cent that public sector unions negotiated in jurisdictions across Canada in 2015.
MPs have the option of freezing their own salaries through federal legislation, but the government has decided not to do so. Salaries for MPs were frozen at 2009-10 levels until the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year under legislation introduced and passed by the former Conservative government……………
Since the MP wage freeze was lifted in 2013, the base salary of members of Parliament has increased eight per cent, from $157,731.
Taxpayers will cough up an extra $25.4 million for an increase of 20 per cent to office budgets for MPs and House of Commons officers that also takes effect Friday.

I don’t think most Canadians have much sympathy for the notion that MPs need a pay hike, considering they already earn far more than the average Canadian.” said Aaron Wudrick, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

And he would be right about that, why is it that their compensation is based upon average PRIVATE sector UNION wages when by far the greatest number of taxpayers are paid far less than union rates and rarely if ever see raises of any amount. Next thing you know they will want to be paid for two weeks of sick days just like or poor hard done by teachers …..oh wait, they get paid whether they show up or not don’t they Mr Harper?

. . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: When is our raise coming?

Democracy Under Fire: When is our raise coming?

Members of Parliament and senators will get a $3,000 increase Friday in their base salary, while cabinet ministers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will receive a larger raise – at a time when Canadians are struggling with stag… . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: When is our raise coming?

Alex's Blog: What Bernie Sanders Has Accomplished

Here is an op ed in the Star on what we might learn from the Bernie Sanders camPaign . . . → Read More: Alex’s Blog: What Bernie Sanders Has Accomplished

Environmental Law Alert Blog: Getting to yes: A process for building Canada’s visionary new environmental assessment act

Tuesday, March 22, 2016 Last November, in a federally-unprecedented move, Prime Minister Trudeau m… . . . → Read More: Environmental Law Alert Blog: Getting to yes: A process for building Canada’s visionary new environmental assessment act

Saskboy's Abandoned Stuff: Why The Drug War Is Inherently Racist and Pro-War

Richard Nixon was not a good man. The people around him weren’t good either. They intentionally lied about the harm of hard drugs (and ‘soft’ drugs too), in order to concoct a reason for law enforcement officers to harass and jail African Americans and anti-war protesters. “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be […] . . . → Read More: Saskboy’s Abandoned Stuff: Why The Drug War Is Inherently Racist and Pro-War

Saskboy's Abandoned Stuff: Saskatchewan Democracy’s Unsolved Problem Didn’t Fix Itself

Please show you support democracy in Saskatchewan. Last Saskatchewan election, this happened instead thanks to our lackluster media ignoring the Greens who fielded a full slate of 58 candidates. A snooze fest of a debate took place, and CBC couldn’t find anyone not involved in the broadcast who watched it. Basically it had the viewership […] . . . → Read More: Saskboy’s Abandoned Stuff: Saskatchewan Democracy’s Unsolved Problem Didn’t Fix Itself

Democracy Under Fire: Lessons not learned.

With the Harper regime having been turfed from power at least in part for their blatant misuse of public advertising dollars for partisan purposes and for their secrecy and failure to disclose anything that could be considered negative towards their rule, and with the senate expense scandal still ongoing, I wonder if ANY of our politicians have learned anything.

We have the Ontario Liberals filling the airways with advertising promoting their Ontario Registered Pension Plan which will not be implemented until 2017 and will not pay out to anyone until 2020.

The ORPP will be introduced in 2017 and, by 2020, subject to legislative and Canada Revenue Agency approval, every employee in Ontario would be part of either the ORPP or a comparable workplace pension plan. Employees and employers would contribute an equal amount, capped at 1.9% each (3.8% combined) on an employee’s annual earnings up to $90,000.
That’s if in fact it is ever implemented given that the jury is still out if it will morf into an “enhanced” Canada Pension Plan. Strike one!

Then we have the quiet, behind closed door, vote of the secretive Federal Board of Internal Economy in December to give themselves and all MP’s a 20% raise in office budgets to take effect in April.

The 20 per cent increase to MPs’ office budgets means each MP will be able to spend an additional $57,690 on top of the current budget of $288,450. Multiply that by the 338 MPs that make up the House of Commons, and MPs’ budgets alone jump by nearly $20 million to a new total of almost $117 million a year.
Others are getting a boost to their office budgets as well. The Speaker of the House of Commons, House officers such as the deputy speakers and the offices of the party leaders, whips and caucus chairs are also in line for the increase.

  • The Speaker will get an additional $193,029 for a new office budget total of $1,158,117.
  • The Opposition leader’s office gets an additional $725,581 for a new total of $4,353,487.
  • The NDP will get an additional $337,487 for a new total of $2,024,870.

It seems to me that just like the rest of us they need to tighten their belts and make do with less and “find efficiencies” at a time when the country is barely out a recession and running a deficit in order to try and get a few more folks back to work and have food on the table. Strike two!

deficit

That’s but two small examples of the ongoing disrespect of governments for those that they govern, I am quite sure that folks across the country can come up with many more. We have a long way to go to achieve that “Open and Accountable” plateau so often promised,. I do believe that the current federal government is trying to improve things in this regard but it remains to be seen how long it will be before tonce again things deteriorates. That decision by the Board of Internal Economy was not a good start!

. . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Lessons not learned.

Democracy Under Fire: Lessons not learned.

With the Harper regime having been turfed from power at least in part for their blatant misuse of public advertising dollars for partisan purposes and for their secrecy and failure to disclose anything that could be considered negative towards their ru… . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Lessons not learned.

Writings of J. Todd Ring: Justin Trudeau and the Continuing Saga of Canadian Apathy

A recent poll shows strong support for the Trudeau government in Canada, and I have to think, once again, that it is surprising to see that Canadians can be so uncritical and unquestioning of their government. Yes, Harper was defeated, and yes, that wa… . . . → Read More: Writings of J. Todd Ring: Justin Trudeau and the Continuing Saga of Canadian Apathy

Larry Hubich's Blog: The Sask Party is just not listening

Visit:  www.notlistening.ca . . . → Read More: Larry Hubich’s Blog: The Sask Party is just not listening

Larry Hubich's Blog: The Sask Party is just not listening

Visit:  www.notlistening.ca . . . → Read More: Larry Hubich’s Blog: The Sask Party is just not listening

Democracy Under Fire: WTO rules against solar industry

In 2014 the United States launcheda WTO case against India’s ambitious solar program. The United States claimed that the “buy-local” rules of the first phases of the program, which say that power companies must use solar components made in India in order to benefit from the government-subsidized program, discriminate against U.S. solar exports. In its ruling, the WTO agreed that India’s buy-local rules “accord less favorable treatment” to imported solar components, even while acknowledging that “imported cells and modules currently have a dominant share of the market for solar cells and modules in India.” India has indicated that it may alter its solar program to try to persuade the U.S. to drop the case. It is unclear whether the U.S. will accept the proposed changes, and what impact they may have on India’s solar expansion plans.
Bringing this case is a perverse move for the United States. Nearly half of U.S. states have renewable energy programs that, like India’s solar program, include “buy-local” rules that create local, green jobs and bring new solar entrepreneurs to the economy. The U.S. government should drop this case to avoid undermining jobs and climate protections not just in India, but also at home……
The ruling boldly states that domestic policies seen as violating WTO rules cannot be justified on the basis that they fulfill UNFCCC or other international climate commitments. In effect, the WTO has officially asserted that antiquated trade rules trump climate imperatives.
From http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ben-beachy/the-wto-just-ruled-agains_b_9307884.html

Why is this about India in a blog about Canadian Democracy? Quite simply because various trade agreements both already in place (NAFTA) and waiting to be ratified (TPP – CETA) have clauses in them that enable this kind of backwards thinking in permitting corporations to sue governments for actions that give preference to their own manufacturing sectors. Any action (including environmental legislation) that gives preference to domestic suppliers for government projects is fair game for these multinationals or foreign corporations to claim a loss of business income and make a claim for ‘compensation’.

This is so wrong on so many levels that I cannot comprehend how the government of any country would agree to these clauses (clearly put in to satisfy the corporate interest) in said trade agreements.
It is no less than an attack upon our national interest and our democratic right to have say into our own destiny, small as that may be. It diminishes our sovereignty and those who promote such clauses in ‘trade agreements’ are bordering upon ‘traitorous’ action IMHO. That in India’s case it diminishes their ability to fight global climate change and is a sad reflection of where corporate and the U.S. Governments priorities lay, do not be fooled into thinking that our situation is any different!

UPDATE the CETA deal has just been “approved” (but not ratified) with some changes to the investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism but without any changes to the clause itself.

. . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: WTO rules against solar industry

Democracy Under Fire: WTO rules against solar industry

In 2014 the United States launcheda WTO case against India’s ambitious solar program. The United States claimed that the “buy-local” rules of the first phases of the program, which say that power companies must use solar components made in India in ord… . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: WTO rules against solar industry

Writings of J. Todd Ring: US Intervention In Syria: The Next Iraq

Here is a very brief synopsis of the US role in Syria. We will, for the sake of brevity, leave aside for the moment the obvious and documented facts of the US arming and supporting of the very terrorist groups they claim to be fighting; as well as th… . . . → Read More: Writings of J. Todd Ring: US Intervention In Syria: The Next Iraq

Writings of J. Todd Ring: Obama’s Vision and Legacy: A retrospective look at the Obama presidency – before we lose all sight of recent history, as our culture is wont to do

  Here are three short articles which I wrote between 2011 and 2015 which sum up the Obama presidency, and the Obama vision and legacy. We should remember, those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Let us review now the torturou… . . . → Read More: Writings of J. Todd Ring: Obama’s Vision and Legacy: A retrospective look at the Obama presidency – before we lose all sight of recent history, as our culture is wont to do

Democracy Under Fire: Small Town Democracy

This week a number of observers have been focusing on the place and influence that the MSM, in particular print media, have upon our democracy. More particularly our ‘need to know’ what is happening in our various governmental institutions so that we the public can hold them to account and ensure that they are respecting our democracy and following the rules and keeping us informed regarding the decisions they are making on our behalf.

Much has been said of late on this subject and concern that the loss and/ or amalgamation of various print media is seriously impacting our ability to have accurate, in depth, knowledge of government policy’s, decisions and proposals. This week I first watched a discussion on this on“the West Block” with Samara’s Jane Hilderman, I then read Lornes take on things at Politics and its Discontents and Kirbys follow up at kirbycairo. What more could one say?

Perhaps the best place to start is at the Municipal level, not my usual fodder here but how much closer to the electors can you get when looking at democratic issues? One of the problems I have with addressing this at the local level is that since the loss of local small town newspapers (or their assimilation by major corporate chains) there is almost no regular information available to the average citizen. Even IF one goes digging about a specific local issue the information is spotty at best. Sure most councils post their agendas (in some cases AFTER the meeting has taken place!), minutes (very basic, we discussed this and decided this) and if one digs deep enough perhaps some supporting documentation. Of public discussion (if indeed there was any), rebuttal and suggestions put forward by citizens (again if any) you will find NOTHING in the official minutes. There is nothing wrong with that, they are after all just minutes meant to reflect the decisions of council, however unless citizens were firstly aware of the issue and then took the time to actually attend said meeting these ‘details’ are lost and unavailable to interested parties.

The days when reporters attended EVERY council meeting and reported, even briefly, on such goings on are long gone (at least here in rural Ontario), sure when a highly contentious issue comes to the public’s (and thus the MSMs) attention it will be briefly reported, but beyond that our councils may as well be operating in a vacuum. This to me is just a forerunner of what may well happen in upper levels of governance if our MSM continues to struggle with how to fund their operations and pay their staff, particularly those ‘investigative’ reporters, The sad part for me is that I would fully support a small independent newspaper (on or off line) but in my area there is no such thing, there are a couple of small town weekly newspapers that belong to a major chain that print non local ‘articles’ gleaned from various contract writers and a few local ‘headlines’ but real LOCAL news is sparse. The corporate owned daily paper in the nearest (small) city on the few time I have read it was not worth the paper it was printed on, the total local content would perhaps fill a weekly!

Then there is the TV news that according to this report is where over 80% of the 60% who do in fact follow the news get their information. (Lorne has more to say on that here) If you live in Toronto or another city where a TV station is located you may well see a little local news but outside of those areas your community may as well not exist…..until a major disaster or some other ‘newsworthy’ thing happens to get their attention! Sure you will learn all about the latest bombing in Timbuktu but in depth news of small town Canada, not a chance. Our local radio stations are now rapidly becoming the only source of local news and generally speaking they do a fairly good job of that but even they rarely cover Municipal Council deliberations, in short if you want to know what your Councillors are doing you must either go digging on line (with in some cases very limited success) or attend every meeting to personally listen to the proceedings. Not an option for most folks.

Bottom line here whilst ‘modern communications’ have made it possible to have almost instantaneous news of events world wide, fewer and fewer folks are keeping an eye on and using those tools to report on what is happening at various levels of governance (and it would seem from the above report fewer even care) resulting in less accountability to those they serve. Will it become news by press release? Is this a taste of things to come in upper levels of government? In short I wonder if democracy will survive because of the internet or in spite of it!

. . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Small Town Democracy

Democracy Under Fire: Small Town Democracy

This week a number of observers have been focusing on the place and influence that the MSM, in particular print media, have upon our democracy. More particularly our ‘need to know’ what is happening in our various governmental institutions so that w… . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Small Town Democracy

Mind Bending Politics: Legacy News is Threatened By Lack of Ethics Not Subsidies

This week CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais ripped into journalism industry executives for asking for subsidies all while owning private yachts and helicopters. This statement has come while the CRTC has been holding hearings on the future of local journalism and TV, however spoiled executives are only part of the problem. A lack of enforcement by the CRTC on ethical regulations seems to be the other part of the problem with broadcast journalism. . . . → Read More: Mind Bending Politics: Legacy News is Threatened By Lack of Ethics Not Subsidies