Categories

A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.

Democracy Under Fire: Promises- Electoral Reform, spending & advertising.

Electoral Reform is probably the most called for item on the democratic reform agenda, and I suspect will be the most difficult to keep from being a very divisive promise given the strong opinions held by various individuals and citizen groups across the country. The promise is to:-
Form an all-party parliamentary committee to bring recommendations to Parliament on the way forward, to allow for action before the succeeding federal election. Ensure that electoral reform measures – such as ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting, and online voting – are fully and fairly studied and considered. And within 18 monthsbring forward legislation to enact electoral reform.

I will cover the various possibilities regarding the types of voting systems in future posts, despite having written on that subject several time in the past I have some new thoughts as to the suitability of some of the proposals (in particular the much vaunted ‘proportional representation’). For now all I am going to say that I am very pleased that this proposal call for ALL systems to be “fully and fairly studied and considered” and that voting methods such as on line voting (and hopefully other ways of improving ways to vote) will be included in the committees deliberations. I hope that wide consultation will take place with all the ramifications of any proposed system considered, including the effect of more complex ballots upon the voting process.

Repeal the anti-democratic elements in the Fair Elections Act and scrap the Citizen Voting Act, restore the voter identification card as an acceptable form of identification. Work with provinces and territories, and support Elections Canada, to register young Canadians as a part of their high school curriculum. Support voter registration as part of a civic ceremony in high schools, support Elections Canada in proactively registering Canadians from groups that historically have lower voter turnout.

Given some of the problems identified by voters during the election its pretty clear that the entire voter identification system needs a major overall and modernization. Various government agencies both federal and provincial have multiple databases with our information in which they check our electability for various programs, make sure we pay our taxes etc etc but seem unable to maintain an accurate list of voters. Much of the problems encountered stem from the necessity to vote at a particular location, perhaps an updated system can eliminate that need. And YES, lets give our youth and other non voters the tools and information to get them involved in deciding their future governance.

Provide Elections Canada with the resources it needs to investigate matters that threaten the integrity of our electoral process. Ensure that the Chief Electoral Officer and Elections Canada have the tools and mandate to encourage more Canadians to vote. Restore the independence of the Commissioner of Canada Elections so that they are freely able to prosecute electoral violations.

Even before the Conservatives removed much of their powers Elections Canasta was not doing a good job of identifying and prosecuting those (almost exclusively political operatives) who abused the system, whether this was from lack of power or lack of resources is hard to tell but we do indeed need a strong independent body with the power to fully investigate such fraud. Election Canada is such a body, let us give them the tools they need to do their job which should indeed include urging all Canadians to vote when given the opertunity.

Appoint an Advertising Commissioner to assist the Auditor General in providing oversight on government advertising. Proposed messages will be reviewed by the Advertising Commissioner to ensure they are non-partisan and related to actual government requirements. Review electoral spending limits, and also ensure that political party spending between elections is subject to limits.
Create a more inclusive, independent commission that will organize leaders’ debates during election campaigns, with a mandate to increase Canadians engagement and knowledge of the issues.

These three items are all part of the same thing in my view, the ability of those who would seek to represent up, both individuals and partys, to be able to place their point of view and proposals before the public with some measure of “fairness’ as compared with the incumbent partys and / or individuals or partys with resources far in excess of some of their oponents. Elections have become far to much about who can spend the most in ‘advertising’ (although it does not always result in the expected result as we have just seen) and as a result alternative views are all but unheard in the ensuing media war. We know that the Harper regime was using public money to toot its own horn for years prior to the election and this tenancy now seems to be spilling over into provincial governments (at least here in Ontario) so any oversight to check this practice is a good thing. The practice of excluding this or that leader of an established party from national debates is part and parcel of the ever increasing tilt to that “playing field” and must be corrected.

Its hard to say how all this will shake out but each of the proposals are a step in the right direction IMHO, at this point I remain optimistic that our new government and our parliamentarian’s will work together to bring many of these reforms into being. I truly hope that our MPs will put partisan rhetoric aside and agree to strengthen our democratic systems for as we have seen it can so quickly and easily go the other way however we are already seeing some rhetoric that this system or that will benefit this party or that. I do not envy the “committee” on this one!

. . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Promises- Electoral Reform, spending & advertising.

Democracy Under Fire: Promises- Electoral Reform, spending & advertising.

Electoral Reform is probably the most called for item on the democratic reform agenda, and I suspect will be the most difficult to keep from being a very divisive promise given the strong opinions held by various individuals and citizen groups across… . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Promises- Electoral Reform, spending & advertising.

Democracy Under Fire: Promises – Parliamentary Accountability

As promised in my post A cabinet that looks like Canada, this week I am going to take a closer look at the Liberal Government’s quite modest promises as regards to parliamentary reform as listed in their platform document. Taking them one at a time they are (in shortened form):-

Strengthen the role of parliamentary committee chairs, including elections by secret ballot. Ensure a more robust system of oversight and review for legislation.”

This one bothers me a little given that committee chairs already have considerable power over the way such meetings are conducted and can, as we have seen in recent years, use procedural actions to disrupt open discussion should they wish to. They need to be more open and accountable with rules established to ensure such partisan or personal biases cannot substantially effect discussions not more power over the process. I am not at all sure what “ a more robust system of oversight and review for legislation” means, reviewing proposed legislation is after all THE function of committees. Government House Leader Dominic Leblanc says House committees should be independent from government with non-partisan chairs and possibly no parliamentary secretary members. As with all things the devil is in the details, this one is a wait and see item.

Liberal Caucus members will only be required to vote with the Cabinet on those matters that implement the Liberal electoral platform or traditional confidence matters…..”

Whilst more ‘free’ votes are highly desirable I am not sure that this actually promises that, in the short term at least most, if not all legislation could be said to “implement the Liberal electoral platform”. No MP should be “required to vote” in any particular manner, naturally those who disagree with their own party’s legislation and vote against it may face some kind of ‘disciplinary’ action from the party but telling an MP how to vote is wrong and antidemocratic. The ONLY vote that could result in a minority government falling should be one that specifically says “This house has no confidence in thus ‘whipping’ the vote would be unnecessary…..”

Create a new, nonpartisan, merit-based, broad, and diverse process to advise the Prime Minister on Senate appointments.”

We do not know at this point what this “process” will be however given the restrictions placed upon the PM by the constitution, and if he truly wants to make the Senate the non partisan chamber of ‘sober second thought’ then taking advice, or even better, candidate recommendations from outside government is the only alternative. I have said before that given that Senators are meant to be representative of the province in which they reside that it seems appropriate that said provinces should be able to propose at least some of those candidates. Once again this is a wait and see what the ‘process’ involves but is far better than proposing reforms that involve opening up the constitution in a long and potentially divisive process..

Work with all parties in the House of Commons to ensure an inclusive, representative, transparent, and accountable process to advise on appointments to the Supreme Court.”

It is my understanding that such a process was already in place, it is just that the previous PM chose to ignore such processes.

Introduce a Prime Minister’s Question Period, empower the Speaker to challenge and sanction Members during Question Period.

The PM is supposed to be one amongst equals, is having a special question period just for him reinforcing the perception that he and he alone is responsible for policy? I agree that the speaker should have more power to enforce members to behave and to answer actual questions put, not go off on some unrelated time passing distraction. Good luck with that.

Change parliamentary financial processes, ensuring accounting consistency among the Estimates and the Public Accounts, providing costing analysis for each
government bill and restoring the requirement that the government’s borrowing plans
receive Parliament’s pre-approval.

Duh!

Ensure that all of the Officers of Parliament – the Chief Electoral Officer, the Access to Information Commissioner, the Auditor General, the Parliamentary Budget Officer etc, etc, are all properly funded and respected for doing their important work to help Canadians.

We have seen during the last governments tenure that when you cant get rid of an officer whos reports you don’t like the next best thing is to cut their funding. We hope that they all do get sufficient funding restored to do their job effectively but must ask if there is a way to ensure that future governments cannot silence these officers by such methods.

Not use prorogation to avoid difficult political circumstances, change the House of Commons Standing Orders to end the practice of using omnibus bills to reduce scrutiny
prevent future governments from using this method to silence critical reports.’

Both of these promises are a very good start and we hope that they can indeed “prevent future governments (and their own) from using omnibus bills“ although how you ‘lock in’ such rules to prevent future governments from changing them back and what penalties can be put in place to prevent the rules being ignored is questionable. All the rules around prorogation, forming coalitions upon the defeat of a minority government, and similar constitutional matters need to be clarified, particularly if electoral reform takes place that results in a greater probability of more minority’s being elected.

The above is almost identical to the ‘list’ proposed by Ms May of the Greens as presented in the post Fixing What Harper Broke where she says “Ideally, a parliamentary committee will be mandated to review the abuses of the last ten years and recommend a full suite of measures to ensure it never happens again.“ There is the rub, any incoming government can seemingly come in and change the rules (or ignore them) as most are not enshrined in law, but for a few citizens invoking constitutional challenges it could have been much worse.
As we have seen in recent years the rules around prorogation, minority and coalition governments and even House proceedings are easily abused, and how and when such constitutional maneuverings can take place is far from clear and governed more by ‘tradition’ than any hard and fast rules or guidelines. Such things need to be formally documented to avoid future ‘constitutional crises’. With the House setting its own rules this is not an easy task, we wish the new Liberal government well with these changes and await the recall of the House to see exactly how much the ‘tone’ and substance of the proceeding will change under what we hope and expect to be a more open and respectful leadership.

. . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Promises – Parliamentary Accountability

Democracy Under Fire: Promises – Parliamentary Accountability

As promised in my post A cabinet that looks like Canada, this week I am going to take a closer look at the Liberal Government’s quite modest promises as regards to parliamentary reform as listed in their platform document. Taking them one at a time t… . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Promises – Parliamentary Accountability

Democracy Under Fire: A cabinet that looks like Canada, why …. “Because its 2015”

Given the large number of Liberal MPs elected that was one of the easier promises to keep but never the less a damn fine start. Now comes the more difficult stuff so let briefly review the platform promises in regard to our democratic institutions and how “Fair and Open” this government intends to be. We . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: A cabinet that looks like Canada, why …. “Because its 2015”

Democracy Under Fire: Samara’s Democracy 360 Report

Samara, the Canadian Democracy Measurement folks have just released their latest report on the state of our democracy and its not good! This is no surprise to those of us who have been taking notice but with generally 40% or less giving any time to even discuss political issues with anybody (online or in person) . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Samara’s Democracy 360 Report

Democracy Under Fire: Your Information is in the Mail

I see a Con MP is proposing to increase the $5 fee for an Access to Information Request which given what Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault saysmay at first seem like a reasonable idea.

“We need more investigators, and it is not my office that is in a crisis, it is the fact that Canadians’ right to . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Your Information is in the Mail

Democracy Under Fire: Lest We Forget

Indeed we must not forget, not just the terrible toll that war takes upon those who engage in it both directly and indirectly but we must also not forget what the second world war was about and how it all started.

I must give a brief history lesson here of the period BEFORE . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Lest We Forget

Democracy Under Fire: Elections Ontario Struggling……

Elections Ontario is struggling to find enough staff to fill the positions required to process your vote, this is not a particular surprise to those who have worked the polls before, it always tough to find responsible folks available for a one day 12 to 1`4hr shift with no breaks! I am not sure . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Elections Ontario Struggling……

Democracy Under Fire: Ontario Election = Identification & Vouching

With all the publicity around the Federal ‘Fair’ Elections Act and the issue of vouching it is important to know that for the Ontario Provincial Election VOUCHING IS NOT PERMITTED. You must have proper identification in order to vote, if you are not on the voters list, do not receive a registration card indicating the . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Ontario Election = Identification & Vouching

Democracy Under Fire: Meaningful Changes or Lipstick on the Pig?

In the unholy rush to jam their Unfair Elections Act through before the majority of Canadians realise just how bad and self-serving piece of legislation it is the Harper regieme has asked the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee to “pre-study” it. In short order the Conservative-dominated committee has come back with a number . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Meaningful Changes or Lipstick on the Pig?

Democracy Under Fire: Electoral Integrity of Act Questioned.

When 19 international Scholars from six democracy’s across the world add their voice to the over 150 Canadian scholars and almost universal condemnation of the Harper Regime’s attempt to introduce partisan bias into our election rules and to reduce the powers of the world respected Elections Canada then you know something is very wrong with . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Electoral Integrity of Act Questioned.

Democracy Under Fire: Five Years of Frustration

Five years ago this week I started Democracy Under Fire due to concern of the way in which the new Conservative Government was ignoring democratic and parliamentary conventions. This was just after their reelection as a result of the lowest voter turnout in Canadian electoral history, with only 22% of eligible Canadian voters casting a . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Five Years of Frustration

Democracy Under Fire: Political Participation and Perception

In their latest report “By Invitation Only:Canadians’ Perceptions of Political Parties”Samara, the measuring democracy people, identified six key roles of political parties’ functions in three main areas. In a survey concentrating upon the areas of Elections, Engagement & Policy they asked their respondents to rate the performance of Canadian political parties on each of . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Political Participation and Perception

Democracy Under Fire: 2014 – The year we ‘loose’ our democracy?

Whilst some say that it is already gone and that we are being subject to an Oligarchy well on its way to a Dictatorship, a view that I find it hard to argue against, there is still hope. The recent push back by a small number of Conservative MP’s gives me a little hope, Michael . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: 2014 – The year we ‘loose’ our democracy?

Democracy Under Fire: A Gift of Democracy for Christmas

For those who may not know Leadnowis “an independent advocacy organization that brings generations of Canadians together to achieve progress through democracy.” They are particularly focused upon building “a stronger democracy that protects our environment, creates economic opportunity while increasing equality” Leadnow has become THE organization for those concerned with these things, and who . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: A Gift of Democracy for Christmas

Democracy Under Fire: Information is Power

The senate expense investigation and who knew what along with the PMs efforts to rid himself of these now disgraced conservative senators that he appointed has all but eliminated other news from the headlines. There was however some mention a couple of weeks ago of Canada’s information watchdog Suzanne Legault’s recent report and remarks wherein . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Information is Power

Democracy Under Fire: Save Democracy from Politics

The title says it all, our very democracy is in danger of being totally subverted by partisan actions which are aimed at keeping or gaining power with little regard to the well being of Canadian peoples or our country. Elizabeth May is correct when she says there is no consensus on how to achieve . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Save Democracy from Politics

Democracy Under Fire: Dysfunctional Legislatures

Is there any such thing as a fully “functional” legislature in Canada? I am starting to wonder. I do not follow all the various provincial maneuverings but it seems to me that many of our governing institutions across the country are in disarray. Certainly the only time our federal government can be called somewhat . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Dysfunctional Legislatures

Democracy Under Fire: Be Careful What You Wish For!

Abolish the Senate? Be careful what you wish for, we all know that it has become highly partisan and some of those appointed feel they are entitled to their entitlements and take even more, reform is needed but do away with it entirely? I maintain that it is not the institution that is the problem . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Be Careful What You Wish For!

Democracy Under Fire: An exercise in futility?

I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that my efforts in these pages to shed some light upon the various attacks upon our democracy, the ever increasing centralization of power in the hands of a few, our right to details of government spending and decisions, and our right to express our opinion upon those decisions . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: An exercise in futility?

Democracy Under Fire: Kevin Page Reflects upon the Past 5 years.

A must read published in the Star. “ I took the job when it was agreed that a few amazing and fearless public servants would join — namely, Mostafa Askari and Sahir Khan. We signed in proverbial blood. We vowed to give Canada a true legislative budget office. Nothing less. I chose career suicide. It . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Kevin Page Reflects upon the Past 5 years.

Democracy Under Fire: The Silence is Deafening

As our hero Kevin Page is replaced as the Parliamentary Budget Officer by the Parliamentary Librarian‘temporarily’ whilst a ‘process’ takes place to perhaps replace him with a less open and honest individual more amenable to the Harper Regimes obsession to control the message we learn that Librarian staff have been silenced. “Federal librarians and archivists . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: The Silence is Deafening

Democracy Under Fire: Getting their attention…

Much has been written about the Idle No More movement in recent weeks and I will not attempt to define it here for like the Occupy Movement before it the focus of the protests is becoming increasingly unclear. For Chief Spence it seems to be about conditions in her, and other, first nations community’s, for . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Getting their attention…

Democracy Under Fire: Unwrap this for Christmas!

I wish I could present you with some uplifting and exciting presents on the democracy front at this time of year but I fear it is not to be, there may be hidden amongst the lumps of coal and crushed remains of our parliamentary democracy a few items that you may be able to salvage . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Unwrap this for Christmas!