Posts Tagged ‘democracy’

 

March 14, 2015: About a thousand people rallied at Winnipeg City Hall and marched through Winnipeg to share their opposition to Bill C-51, a federal Conservative omnibus bill that will, in the guise of fighting terrorism, undermine constitutionally protected civil liberties in Canada. Similar events took place in more than 40 communities across Canada.


Introduced into Parliament on Jan. 30, 2015, Bill C-51 is an omnibus bill that will undermine constitutionally protected rights and freedoms of Canadians in the guise of combating terrorism. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s bombastic, saber-rattling YouTube video, published 2 days before the bill was tabled, set the tone. Essentially, Canada is under attack and the government will do whatever it takes to protect Canadians.

stephen-harperCritics of C-51 argue that it will criminalize speech, make it easier to arrest people who police think might commit an offence, share citizen’s private information between government departments without oversight, and allow the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to have police-like powers and disrupt the organizations they are spying on, all under a veil of secrecy.

Consequently, this bill has attracted a broad and growing opposition, including the federal Green and New Democratic Parties, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, Federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien, editorialists at several major daily newspapers, and four former prime ministers. Regrettably, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has said that Liberal MPs will support the bill.

Environmentalists, such as Greenpeace Canada’s Keith Stewart, have written that C-51 may be used against climate activists. A recently leaked RCMP document entitled “Critical Infrastructure Intelligence Assessment – Criminal Threats to the Canadian Petroleum Industry” lends credence to this line of analysis.

The Anti-Terrorism Act has come under expert legal scrutiny. Craig Forcese is a law professor teaching national security law at the University of Ottawa and a participant in the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society. Kent Roach teaches at the University of Toronto law faculty and worked with both the Arar and Air India commissions. They have set up a website to present their analysis. This is well worth reading.

Bill C-51 passed second reading in the House of Commons on Monday evening, with 176 Liberals, Bloc Quebecois, and Conservative members voting in favour. Only the the NDP, Greens, and an independent conservative, Brent Rathgeber, opposed the legislation.

Does this mean the jig is up? Not by a long shot. There is still time to let your MP know there will be a political price to pay for supporting this police state bill. Contact your Member of Parliament and tell him/her to vote against Bill C-51. If you don’t know how to make contact, follow this link.


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I wonder how many Manitobans have received an email from their Manitoba NDP MLA entitled “A Fairer Deal for Renters.” I wonder how many are as pissed off as I am about what it represents.


Hi PaulRA Emailer

You may have seen information in your mailbox recently about Manitoba’s Fairer Deal for Renters.

Most of us have rented at some point in our lives, which is why I’m proud to be part of a government that introduces new protections for tenants rather than cuts.

Changes include investing in repairs and upgrades to social housing and introducing a new housing tax credit to stimulate construction in the private and non-profit sectors. On top of that, more apartment dwellers will now be protected from large rent increases.

But even with these changes I know there is more we can do. I want to hear what you think our next steps should be.

I’m inviting you to visit FairerDeal4Renters.ca to give us your input and to learn more about our plan for Manitoba renters.

You can fill in a brief survey and let me know how you think we can continue to protect tenants and keep life affordable for Manitoba families, while protecting the services we value most. I look forward to hearing from you.

**PS – Feel free to forward this email on to any family and friends you think may be interested in providing us with feedback on this issue.

Thank you,

Rob Altemeyer – MLA for Wolseley


At first glance, it appears rather innocuous — an MLA informing his constituent of new government initiatives and inviting input into future policies that will help tenants and other Manitoba families. If you didn’t follow up on the opportunity by clicking on FairerDeal4Renters.ca, you might think that it was a genuine invitation. You might think “How thoughtful of him to ask. I feel so included. This government really cares!” You might.

I clicked on the aforementioned link and found myself — not on a page dedicated to tenants’ interests, as one might have suspected from the name of the link — but on a page on the Manitoba NDP Caucus web site. As promised, it provided a bit more information on how life had gotten better for Manitoba tenants. Then came the survey — and this is what pissed me off.


How can we continue to keep life affordable for Manitoba families?

RA Emailer2Continue investing in safe, affordable housing units for seniors.
Protect consumers with fair and transparent cable and Internet contracts.
Keep Manitoba Hydro public and Hydro rates low.
Protect Manitobans from American-style, two-tier health care.
Keep post-secondary tuition affordable.
Continue building public infrastructure, including schools, hospitals and Quick Care Clinics.


Nowhere is there an opportunity to comment on the plethora of genuine issues and policy concerns that would impact on tenants in particular or citizens in general. Instead we are presented with a tick-box menu of vaguely worded motherhood statements that reflect existing government policy, with a text box at the end for comments.

This is not consultation. It is pre-election propagandizing. The Manitoba government did something similar in the lead up to this year’s provincial budget.

I wish I could say I was disappointed, but this bogus, tawdry, cynical approach to “consultation” is well established. Everyone does it. Governments, corporations, political parties. They smile, appear concerned and insult our intelligence on their way to the bank. The NDP is hardly unique. No wonder voter turn-outs are in decline.

Winnipeg Free Press columnist Mary Agnes Welch nailed it when she described this particular email message as “NDP bait and switch.”

Until political parties learn to engage honestly with citizens, our democracy will continue to wither.

October 8, 2013 - Green Party leader Elizabeth May, speaking at the Speak Up For Democracy Town Hall Meeting in Winnipeg. Photo: Paul S. Graham

October 8, 2013 – Green Party leader Elizabeth May, speaking at the Speak Up For Democracy Town Hall Meeting in Winnipeg. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Canadian democracy ain’t what it used to be and what it used to be was far from ideal. Still, fewer of us are voting and even fewer are satisfied with the outcome.

Over the past 20 years, voter turnout has declined precipitously. Of the 24.2 million citizens eligible to vote in the 2011 federal election, only 14.8 million, or 61.1 per cent did so. Of those who voted, 39.6 per cent, or 5.8 million voters chose a Conservative candidate. In other words, the government of Canada was elected by fewer than 25 per cent of eligible voters. 9.4 million Canadians chose not to vote for anyone; this is nearly twice as many as those who elected the governing party.

Among those of us who have chosen to vote, there is widespread dissatisfaction with the way this is represented in the House of Commons. The following table shows the distribution of seats following the 2011 federal election.

Party

Elected

% of Seats

% of Vote

Conservative

167

54.2

39.6

NDP

102

33.1

30.6

Liberal

34

11

18.9

BQ

4

1.3

6

Green

1

0.3

3.9

Source: http://www.sfu.ca/~aheard/elections/results.html. (Note, percentages to not add up to 100, probably because of some rounding in the original data. But you get the idea.)

The top two parties clearly have more MPs than their share of the popular vote would justify. It looks like this.

Now, look what happens when MPs are elected in proportion to their party’s share of the popular vote.

Party

FPTP

PR

Conservative

167

122

NDP

102

95

Liberal

34

59

BQ

4

19

Green

1

13

(Note: the above chart needed some rounding to make it work – but it’s close enough.) It would look like this.

Would adoption of a proportional representation system increase voter turnouts in elections? It might. Those who are convinced that their vote does not count might be encouraged to participate in a process that offered a more representative outcome.

However, all the electoral system reforms in the world will be fruitless unless the governments we elect learn to behave in a more democratic fashion.

A common refrain among voters is that once elected, Members of Parliament become invisible, until the next election, anyway. Stories of MPs frustrated by the their lack of freedom to speak their minds are growing, as are the complaints of reporters who are frustrated with the federal government’s record of providing information that should be made public in a timely way. Government scientists are prevented from discussing their publicly funded research. Organizations that evaluate government policies lose their funding. Critics of government policy find themselves described as dangerous radicals and citizens concerned about fracking are placed under surveillance. Shutting down Parliament to avoid controversy and using omnibus budget bills to to limit Parliamentary examination of legislation can be added to the list.

While our current federal government is notorious for its antidemocratic practices, governments at all levels have fostered a system that insulates them from addressing the concerns of citizens. This growing trend to undemocratic governance in a country that regards itself as a democracy inspired the town hall meeting that took place in Winnipeg Oct. 8, 2013.

Sponsored by Peace Alliance Winnipeg and the Green Party of Canada, “Speak Up for Democracy” featured Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party and MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, Dennis Lewycky, executive director of the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, and Leah Gazan, a leading activist in Idle No More.

More that 200 people packed the Broadway Disciples United Church to hear from them and to discuss with them what must be done to rescue our democracy.

I’ve been to a lot of meetings over the years; this clearly was one of the best. So grab some pop corn, turn off your smart phone and invest the next two hours in pondering one of the most pressing issues of our generation.

Links:
Elizabeth May, MP
Green Party of Canada
Social Planning Council of Winnipeg
Idle No More Manitoba


tour_logo_enGreen Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, is on a cross country tour, billed as “Save Democracy from Politics,” to call for major reforms in Canada’s Parliamentary system. According to May, Canadian democracy is being undermined by excessive partisanship, a party system that punishes MPs who do not toe the party line, and a Prime Minister’s Office that wields the powers that should be exercised by Parliament.

May was in Winnipeg to speak at a town hall meeting co-sponsored by the Green Party and Peace Alliance Winnipeg. I will post the video from that meeting later this week. In the meantime, here’s Michael Welch, News Director of CKUW-FM, in conversation with Elizabeth May.

 

Links


whose winnipeg posterMarch 14, 2013: The Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, in partnership with OURS Winnipeg, For the Love of Winnipeg and Planners’ Network Manitoba, held a well attended public forum at the Millennium Library to discuss how decisions about land use are made in Winnipeg.

In a wide ranging discussion, Winnipeg’s civic government was criticized for lacking vision, accountability and transparency, along with a tendency to favor the private interests of developers over those of citizens and communities.

Topics included the Armstrong Point Residents Association fight to prevent private school expansion, the OURS group fight to preserve green space and City owned golf courses, the Parker Lands Preservation campaign to preserve the Parker wetlands, the Corydon Residents’ Association who had their secondary plan process suddenly cancelled, and the campaign to restore Victoria Park as an important historic site.

Here is my video report.


There is no shortage of Stop Harper videos on YouTube. A recent YouTube search yielded 3,740 hits, and I’m sure one could find more with a more refined search. Ever since Brigette DePape interrupted the Speech from the Throne with her iconic stop sign, activists have been inspired to amplify the message in on placards, T-shirts and in song.

What follows is a rundown of videos I’ve shot in and around Winnipeg. I invite readers to share their favorites in the comments section.


Stop Harper . . . the musical

August 2, 2012: Stephen Harper was in Gimli to make political hay out of a pledge to commit $18 million to dealing with the environmental problems facing Lake Winnipeg. After gutting  environmental protection laws in Canada to make way for dirty oil pipeline megaprojects and cancelling funding to the Experimental Lakes Area, we doubted his sincerity.

Despite our best efforts, we never got to see Harper close-up. In fact, his security detail took great pains to ensure he did not have to engage with anyone either than party faithful and selected media. But we did come up with this great song . . .

Hey Harper #StopHarper

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s political motto must be “so many people to annoy – so little time.” Whether it is gutting environmental protection laws, wasting money on fighter jets that no one else wants to buy, denying health care to refugees or shutting down Parliament to avoid a non-confidence vote, Harper has been a disaster for Canada.

In this clip, Winnipeg’s renowned Flaming Trolleys Marching Band provide words and the rhythms that will be appreciated by any Canadian that is marching for democracy.

National Stop Harper Day in Winnipeg

Traditionally a day of celebration, Canada Day 2012 became National Stop Harper Day for Canadians in 12 cities because of the regressive policies of the Harper government, most notably Bill C-38. In Winnipeg, citizens held a Funeral for Canada in the Osborne Village neighbourhood, a display of activist art at the St. Norbert Arts Centre and a Vigil for Canada on the outskirts of The Forks National Historic Site.

Stop Cuts to Refugee Health Care in Canada

Winnipeg, June 18, 2012: Opposition to the Harper government’s plan to cut health care for refugees reverberated across Canada. Joining in a National Day of Action Against Refugee Health Cuts, about 500 Winnipeggers rallied at The Forks to hear from health care professionals and newcomers to Canada about the threats posed by Harper’s plans.

In this clip, Dr. Michael Dillon outlines the impressive line-up of opposition to these cuts, the outcomes of which, according to Canadian Doctors for Medicare, “could range from diabetics not getting their insulin, to children not receiving immunizations, to letting people succumb to heart attacks.”

Joyce has a choice! Let her hear your voice!

Conservative MP Joyce Bateman (Winnipeg South Centre) had a choice: stand up for the democratic rights of her constituents – and all Canadians – or vote for Bill C-38 – a draconian bill that included a budget which cuts a wide range of necessary services with amendments to over 70 existing laws. She chose the latter. By cramming all of these changes into an omnibus bill and rushing it through Parliament’s Finance Committee, Harper prevented MPs from examining and debating these measures in detail. Once again Harper showed his contempt for democracy.

In this clip, marchers gathered at Bateman’s constituency office to ask her to vote against Bill C-38.


June 9, 2012: Citizens opposed to Bill C-38 pause for a moment outside of Conservative MP Joyce Bateman’s Winnipeg South Centre office before continuing to distribute literature in the constituency. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Stephen Harper’s Bill C-38 continues to generate controversy and opposition across Canada. In Winnipeg, a group of citizens have joined Lead Now’s “13 Heroes” campaign that is aimed at convincing enough Conservative MPs across the country to force the Prime Minister to back down on his budget implementation bill. The focus in Winnipeg is on Conservative MP Joyce Bateman (Winnipeg South Centre).

C-38 is an omnibus bill that combines budgetary spending and cuts with amendments to over 70 pieces of existing legislation. Among the bill’s lowlights, it

  • repeals the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and introduces a weaker version
  • kills Canadian world-class science research centres, closing or selling the Experimental Lakes Area, The Cereal Research Centre at the University of Manitoba, marine & climate-monitoring programs
  • removes protection of endangered species and their habitat, when approving pipeline projects, by amending the Species at Risk Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act
  • guts the Fisheries Act by removing provisions for habitat protection
  • repeals the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act
  • eliminates the National Round Table on Environment and Economy
  • repeals the Fair Wages Act
  • reforms Old Age Security by raising the age of eligibility for the program
  • forces EI users to accept work that does not correspond to their training or customary salary

While Canadians and their MPs should debate the merits of these various measures, Harper will not allow this to happen. Because they have been stuffed into one Bill, these proposals will not get the individual attention they deserve. As you read this, the package is being rushed through one Parliamentary Committee — the Finance Committee. The Finance Committee is neither mandated nor equipped to assess the impacts of these wide-ranging amendments. Once again, Harper is showing his contempt for Canadians, for Parliament and for democracy itself.

Parliament may vote on Bill C-38 as soon as June 14th. The Opposition Parties are lined up to oppose the Bill, but with his majority, Harper will prevail unless we can convince some of his backbenchers to stop acting like sheep and listen to their constituents. Thirteen, to be precise. If thirteen Conservative MPs choose democracy, Harper can choose to back down or face an election.

On June 13, expect rallies outside of Conservative MPs offices. You can find out about the one nearest you here. If you live in Winnipeg, two events are planned:

Information picket in front of Joyce Bateman’s office (611 Corydon Avenue) from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Show up at three and you can help make picket signs.

Bill C-38 Dialogue Event, The University of Winnipeg, Room 2M70 (515 Portage Ave), from 7:00 to 9:00 pm

If you can’t make it, or abhor crowds, you can still remind Joyce Bateman that she has a choice. Contact her at

House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6
Telephone:  613-992-9475
Fax:  613-992-9586
Email:  Joyce.Bateman@parl.gc.ca

or

102-611 Corydon Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R3L 0P3
Telephone: 204-983-1355
Fax: 204-984-3979

Finally, here’s a bit of video I recorded Saturday at Joyce Bateman’s office. But first, go to the kitchen and assemble your favorite noisemakers. Then play the video and chant:

“JOYCE HAS A CHOICE! LET HER HEAR YOUR VOICE!”