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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.

Democracy Under Fire: Goodby Harper, Hello Canada

I am going to be taking a short break from my weekly blogging over the holidays but before I do I wanted to write a little of my personal thoughts as to what I hope the new year will bring. I will admit to being very optimistic, perhaps too much so, for a return to a kinder, more inclusive, caring Canada as detailed by our new governments many proposed changes to things that were ignored, closed, silenced or abused by the previous regime. Just the tone of the PM and his various ministers gives me a renewed sense of hope for the future, a positive outlook and the reinvesting in people, the openness in listening to, and inviting such dialogue from, the provinces, the scientific community, our environmental groups and our native peoples is so refreshing.
I am not so naive as to believe that all the promises will be achieved in the next year or more, or even ever, but the fact that they are trying thus far for that “open and accountable” government promised to us so many times before is to be supported and encouraged. The reinstatement of the census, the unmuzzleing of our scientists and diplomats, the freedom of our charities to express an opinion without fear, the invitation to all Partys and Provinces to join the delegation at the climate change talks all show a real desire to actually fulfil such promises.
Its not going to be all plain sailing, the very practical proposals for appointing Senators (something that must be done if we are going to have a functional parliamentary system) is already being criticized by some of the very people who would have an increased say in such appointments, namely the Provinces. In trying to ensure a non partisan Senate but still be able to introduce government bills to that chamber previous procedures will need to be changed and some Senators are trying to do just that but some outside the chamber are going to do everything they can to block any efforts to make such changes. The new opposition, who are now in the same position as the Liberals were just a few brief weeks ago, are naturally against almost any move to undo legislation or decisions forced through whist they were in power. I hope they will learn to be a little less partisan with their rhetoric and debate future bills upon their merit, but I doubt that will happen. Just trying to form parliamentary committees has already turned into a squabble as to who can serve on or attend meetings.

So here is my message for 2016. Let us support and encourage the positive change that the new government is proposing, let us ensure that they keep their promises of consulting with the Provinces on shared issues, let us make sure that that open and accountable thing does not drop from sight again and, yes, let us hope for more ‘Sunny Days’ ahead for Canada.

I will be back in January with some thoughts upon the choices to be made in bringing in Electoral Reform. As Peter Lowry says “What we really need in considering these questions is people with open minds. You simply cannot consider solutions to the voting system until you have a clear idea of why you want to change it and what really are the options available. This is not as simple as people think.”

Meanwhile I wish all my readers Happy Holidays and a productive and prosperous 2016

. . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Goodby Harper, Hello Canada

Democracy Under Fire: Goodby Harper, Hello Canada

I am going to be taking a short break from my weekly blogging over the holidays but before I do I wanted to write a little of my personal thoughts as to what I hope the new year will bring. I will admit to being very optimistic, perhaps too much so, … . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Goodby Harper, Hello Canada

Democracy Under Fire: Promises – Openness, Transparency and Service.

Continuing our review of the Liberal Partys promises we turn to:=
Openness and Transparency.
Amending the Access to Information Act so that all government data and information is made open by default in machine-readable, digital formats.
Accelerating and expanding open data initiatives and continually look for additional opportunities to do so.
Creating a central, no-fee portal for personal information requests.

All of the above, except the access to information item, has been underway for some time however it appears that some of the restrictions put upon those trying to initiate this within government by the previous regime have slowed and hampered the efforts and in fact deliberately ignored / abused the existing system . We hope that a less restrictive environment will speed up and expand these efforts.

The promise to “Create a single window for all government services, and work with the provinces and territories on ways to combine online access efforts.” would seem to part of this effort. There is already a “ individualized, secure accounts for Canadians who want to access all of their government benefits” and this can no doubt be expanded and be made more accessible.
It would seem to make sense to eliminate duplication of access to services with the provinces both on and off line and here I am going to suggest it may be the time to consider a proposal contained in a 2008 senate report largely ignored by the previous regime that being:-
RECOMMENDATION 2-3: The committee recommends that the federal government work with provincial, territorial and municipal governments to identify ways in which a range of existing and new services might be delivered through existing rural infrastructure points such as rural post offices.
Many folks, particularly in rural areas do not have access to reliable, affordable, unlimited internet and the provision of some services at your local post office would help keep our postal service alive and make services more accessible for many citizens.

Under the heading of Better Service for Canadians we see this which closely mirrors the above:-
Introduce a significant overhaul of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) operating practices to proactively contact Canadians when they are entitled to, but are not, receiving tax benefits; offering to create returns for clients, particularly lower income Canadians.

This one has bugged the hell out of me and many other citizens, particularly senior citizens, for years. Having to ‘apply’ for certain benefits year after year by filling out a form which mirrors the information already provided in your tax return (and which is then checked against that information upon receipt) is ridiculous and just wastes government resources. Similarly not informing folks (youth, seniors, physically and mentally challenged individuals etc etc) of support services, both financial and physical, to which they may be entitled may reduce the use of same but is wrong on so many levels. There is no doubt that there is room for improvement on this file.

A couple more promises include:-

Create a common, quarterly, and more detailed parliamentary expense report, make the Board of Internal Economy open by default.
A more open government is always a good thing in my view we just hope that such practices become the norm within Canada. Let us have both MP and Senators individual and office expenditures reported (and publicly available) on a timely basis, That is not annually some months after the year end but quarterly within 30 to 60 days.

Combat international tax evasion; and ending the CRA political harassment of charities, as well as clarifying rules to affirm the important role that charities play in developing and advocating for public policy in Canada.
Genuine charities that do “good work” or otherwise enhance society should continue to be free to publish their points of view without being hassled by the CRA, however there are those that are in fact political in their entire reason for existence who were not audited during Harpers attack on charities. Lets set reasonable rules across the board and ensure that the CRA follows them without bias.

Make Statistics Canada fully independent with a mandate to collect data needed by the private sector, other orders of government etc, etc. Strengthened Statistics Canada to make available more detailed labour market information, child development data,
and statistics on natural capital.
Having already restored the long form census I suspect that this will be instituted in short order. Labour market details are essential for establishing who and where need attention in regards to employment, more detailed LOCAL reports are desperately needed to cover specific areas and needs.

Finally they say they will:-
Create a Prime Minister’s Youth Advisory Council, of young Canadians and Mobilize the experience and knowledge of Canadians using evolving technologies…..
I am not quite sure how this is going to work, does this mean that they are going to take notice of chatter on ‘social media’, I sure as hell hope that the ‘input’ will be more substantive than that, its a good thing to listen to Canadians but how to separate the partisan rhetoric from the substantive suggestions will be almost impossible!

Next week Electoral Reform, advertising and debates.
. . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Promises – Openness, Transparency and Service.

Democracy Under Fire: Promises – Openness, Transparency and Service.

Continuing our review of the Liberal Partys promises we turn to:= Openness and Transparency. Amending the Access to Information Act so that all government data and information is made open by default in machine-readable, digital formats. Acceler… . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Promises – Openness, Transparency and Service.

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: Do Not Be Muzzled.

Do not be muzzled Oct 19th, get out and have your say on who you wish to represent you in parliament, bearing in mind that many of the promises are just that and may either be a long time coming or reduced or eliminated once in power. Particularly should the winning party get a . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Do Not Be Muzzled.

Democracy Under Fire: The Silence is Becoming Deafening.

A few weeks ago I reported that my local Conservative MP “will be declining to participate in any all-candidates meeting that follows the traditional format, one he says simply does not work. He says he would prefer a format where each candidate is given a few minutes for opening statements and then they go . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: The Silence is Becoming Deafening.

Democracy Under Fire: Harper History, Part 7 – Suppressed Information – Advertising Overload

In reviewing the events for this period I was struck by how important is is to look back at the undemocratic and secretive actions of the Harper regime, even I, who has written frequently and consistently on this subject had forgotten so many of the things done to diminish our governance. This just 2 or . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Harper History, Part 7 – Suppressed Information – Advertising Overload

Democracy Under Fire: Harper History, Part 6B – Budget Reintroduced – More Secrecy

May 2011 – summer 2012

The first few months of the Harper majority made it clear that the long forgotten “open and accountable” promise given when first coming to power is exactly the opposite of the regimes actual intentions. There are repeated attempts to put even the most innocuous committee deliberations behind closed . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Harper History, Part 6B – Budget Reintroduced – More Secrecy

Democracy Under Fire: Voices for Democracy

Voices-Voix is a non-partisan coalition of Canadians and Canadian organizationscommitted to defending our collective and individual rights to dissent, advocacy and democratic space. They have documented attacks against organizations, individuals and institutions that have raised their voices, to show the pattern of government silencing those who exercise their right to dissent. They have a membership of over . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Voices for Democracy

Democracy Under Fire: Harper History, Part 5B – G20, Census Axed, Contempt.

June 2010 – Mar 2011 In this the second half of part 5 of the ongoing Harper History series intended to remind our citizens exactly how little respect the Harper Regime has for our Democracy we touch upon the G20 fiasco, the killing of the census and the inability of the PBO to get . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Harper History, Part 5B – G20, Census Axed, Contempt.

Democracy Under Fire: “Strong, Proud, Free”

The above is apparently the ‘branding’ that the Conservatives are now going to be inundating us with for the foreseeable future, it remains to be seen if we finally see the end of the “Economic Action Plan” Ads that have plagued us for years in attempting to persuade us that they actually had one. . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: “Strong, Proud, Free”

Democracy Under Fire: 2015 Budget Prorogued.

We all know that when backed into a corner Harper will do almost anything to avoid any negative information about his regime from emerging from his$65 million plus a year PMO spin machine and that this is particularly true of bad economic news. We know in the past he prorogued parliament in order to . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: 2015 Budget Prorogued.

Democracy Under Fire: Electioneering on our Dime?

We all know that we are inundated with TV advertisements promoting the Harper “government” in thev egis of telling citizens about their “plan” or some other “program” non of which actualy tell the watcher anything that will help them actually access said programs. Does anyone actually go to that web page they promote? We now . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Electioneering on our Dime?

Democracy Under Fire: A Stark Contrast.

I dont often comment upon the daily actions of politicians on this blog preferring to look at the broader picture of how their actions affect out democracy but one recent report realy got my attention in its stark contrast between a potential leader and the current one. The way in which our ‘leaders’ interact . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: A Stark Contrast.

Democracy Under Fire: Casualty of War?

This week has seen a multitude of individuals expressing concern that the Harper Regime will use the so called “terrorist attack” upon parliament to further increase the ability of the RCMP and CSIS to investigate Canadian citizens whilst reducing the already minimal oversight over their activities.

There is little doubt that any country must protect . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Casualty of War?

Democracy Under Fire: Cabinet hides even more secrets.

A stealthy Treasury Board directive in the summer of 2013 required bureaucrats to ask departmental lawyers to decide what constitutes a secret, a decision that used to be made by the Privy Council Office, which oversees cabinet matters resulting in many more documents being exempted from Freedom of Information requests.

There is a growing list . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Cabinet hides even more secrets.

Democracy Under Fire: Rock Snot a State Secret?

Back in May of this year a reporter from The Canadian Press made a request to speak to Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientist Max Bothwell the recognized expert on Rock Snot (a single-celled algae that attaches to rocks on river bottoms) what followed can only be called bizarre. It most certainly shows exactly how . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Rock Snot a State Secret?

Democracy Under Fire: Successful Coverup, Fall Guy Convicted

The Conservative party has consistently said it ran a clean and ethical campaign and had nothing to do with what happened in Guelph and has also said that they ‘fully cooperated ‘ with the investigation by Elections Canada. This being the case then how is it that only one person was charged, and now . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Successful Coverup, Fall Guy Convicted

Democracy Under Fire: Garbage in, Garbage out?

Having publicly available information on the well-being of our local communities and national numbers on employment, business viability, population etc etc is essential not only to keep the government ‘honest’ but to make local and governmental decisions affecting these things. At first glance then it would seem that the ongoing project to make such . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Garbage in, Garbage out?

Democracy Under Fire: Ignorance is Bliss?

Its old news that the Harper Regime eliminated the long form Census thus also eliminating reliable information on the economic and social status of various areas and communities across the country. Nor should it be news that like many other departments (with the notable exception of the PMO) their budget has beencut. Statscan’s budget . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Ignorance is Bliss?

Democracy Under Fire: The Fair Elections Act

The Conservative government will introduce changes to the Elections Act this week that caucus members expect to restructure the office in charge of investigating violations. “It’s the Fair Elections Act,” Poilievre said.Given the Conservatives penchant for naming bills in an Orwellian fashion we had best keep an eye on this one. I suspect it will . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: The Fair Elections Act

Democracy Under Fire: Silence of the Labs

Silence of the Labs is the title given to the Fifth Estate presentation coming up on CBC this Friday which anyone concerned with the future of Canadian scientific research, indeed the very future of Canada, should make a point of watching. Whilst I do not know what their investigative reporting will reveal their . . . → Read More: Democracy Under Fire: Silence of the Labs