Whoa! Canada

laurel l. russwurm's political musings

Posts Tagged ‘twitter

Conservative MP presents Proportional Representation petition

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Fair Vote Canada LogoThe Fair Vote Canada Waterloo Region Chapter presented the Proportional Representation Petition to Kitchener Centre MP Stephen Woodworth last month.

Yesterday, on December 9th, 2013, the Conservative MP raised eyebrows on Parliament Hill when he presented the Proportional Representation petition to Parliament.

Fair Electoral Representation: Petition to the House of Commons

A petition to ensure Canadians have a fair electoral system

Whereas:

  • Our winner-take-all voting system results in a House of Commons where the number of MPs a party’s supporters elect does not reflect the number of voters who cast ballots for that party;
  • Fair voting systems better reflect the will of voters, let them vote for the candidate or party they prefer, and give each community fair and accountable representation.

We, the undersigned residents of Canada, call upon the House of Commons to immediately undertake public onsultations across Canada to amend the
Canada Elections Act to ensure voters:

  • Can cast an equal and effective vote to be represented fairly in parliament, regardless of political belief or place of residence;
  • Are governed by a fairly elected parliament where the share of seats held by each political party closely reflects the popular vote;
  • Live under legitimate laws approved by a majority of elected parliamentarians, representing a majority of voters;

And to introduce a suitable form of proportional representation after these public consultations.

Fair Vote Canada printable petition PDF

MP Stephen Woodworth

Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth

When the Fair Vote chapter presented the petition to the Conservative MP, Stephen Woodworth spent the better part of an hour discussing the issue with them. During that conversation, he made a commitment to look into it further and to present it to Parliament. And so he did.

YouTube: Proportional Representation
MP Stephen Woodworth meets FVC Waterloo #1

YouTube: Proportional Representation
MP Stephen Woodworth meets FVC Waterloo #2

If you believe the votes of all Canadians should count, you can find out more about meaningful electoral reform from your local Fair Vote Canada chapter or action group. If there isn’t one nearby, you can start your own, or simply print your own petition to present to your own MP.

If you do, don’t forget to let me know so I can blog about it :)

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A Black Mark for Peter Braid?

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Invisible protesters? Or myopic MP?

The Black Mark Rally at Peter Braid’s office

Saturday’s Black Mark Budget protest at Kitchener-Waterloo MP Peter Braid’s office began at Noon.

When CTV asked Mr. Braid for a comment at 1:51 PM, The Member of Parliament replied:

Yet there were About 40 protesters attending the Waterloo Protest

I’m wondering where Mr. Braid was . . .

Perhaps he mislaid his office?

Maybe Mr. Braid should look at this issue a little more carefully.

By contrast, Kitchener Centre MP Stephen Woodworth is reputed to have treated his protesters to coffee.

next Casseroles Night In Canada

June 6th, 2012

Because *all* Canadians deserve civil rights *and* accessible education.



Videos

Un grand tonnerre / A great thunder / Un gran trueno

Casseroles Night in Canada / La soirée des casseroles au Canada / 30 Mai 2012



Image Credit
Photographs by Anita Nickerson, used with permission

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Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

June 4, 2012 at 1:21 am

thoughtcrime … in Canada ?

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goat tethered on a hill

Byron Sonne’s trial is proceeding. Yesterday the Crown rested its case. As a citizen of this fair nation, I have some concerns.

Criminal prosecution is quite expensive, yet the Crown spent a fair bit of effort trying to explain Byron’s use of the word “goat” in his various online nick names. In much the same way truck drivers assumed CB radio “handles,” computer users have been adopting nicknames as their personal brands even before the Internet became publicly accessible in the 1990s.

It seems that Byron has quite a collection of pictures of goats on his computer. (It isn’t at all hard to find a picture of a goat on the Internet⇒) The police witness told the court that the acronym “G.O.A.T.” stands for “Greatest Of All Time” made popular by hockey star Wayne Gretsky. The Crown seems to want this on the record as a indication of Byron Sonne’s ego. Even though this explanation is a guess. No credible evidence was presented to explain why Byron’s personal brand is “goat.” The only one who can factually explain the selection of the nick name would be Byron Sonne himself.

Did I miss the part where the Crown presented evidence that Byron was even a hockey fan? (Although the police witness seems to be.)   The Crown suggests this explanation will characterize Byron as an egotistical hacker.  Now, I’m not a lawyer, but I really don’t understand what the point of this is.   If, by some amazing coincidence, the police guess about why Byron chose the word goat was correct, what exactly would it be evidence of?

More disturbing is what appears to be the “guilt by association” vibe promoted by the Crown. Receiving emails or a digital newsletter from people who are later arrested isn’t a criminal offence. Or, if it is, it should not be.

June 2010 poster: Toronto Resist G8/20

Reading, attending meetings and/or talking about political participation, even if such participation is or leads to protest or dissent should not be a criminal offence. Or, if it is, it shouldn’t be. George Orwell called government repression of ideas “thoughtcrime.” Is that what this is?

As far as I know, TCMN (Toronto Community Mobilization Network) is a congregation of a variety of activist groups that came together due to shared concerns about the G20.   Personally, I don’t even live in Toronto, but what I read made me concerned about the G20 even before it happened.

As well as not liking the TCMN, or convicted activists, apparently the Crown also doesn’t like anarchists organizations like SOAR (Southern Ontario Anarchist Resistance). As far as I know, it isn’t illegal to be an anarchist.

Just as it isn’t illegal to be a liberal. Or a conservative. Or even a hacker.

Because freedom of association is protected by the Charter.

Reading and thinking aren’t illegal in Canada. There’s even a whole genre called “true crime” but reading about crime doesn’t make you a criminal. Thinking radical thoughts isn’t a crime.

Committing criminal acts is.

Even so, criminal acts are defined by laws. If our lawmakers were to designate walking on the grass a felony, then walking on the grass would become a criminal act. This is one reason why dissent is so important for a free society; citizens need to be able to complain if government passes laws that are contrary to what society holds as acceptable. As well, the practical application of the laws that define and confine us are interpreted and tested out through court cases like this one.

So it’s worrisome to know that Byron’s Charter rights were ignored.

But it is more troubling to me that Canadian law enforcement invested so much in building a case seemingly based on association and innuendo.

Just as it is a concern that law enforcement has such a tenuous grasp of technical issues important to this case.

Judge Spies had never heard of Linux before, yet Crown attempts to dazzle and/or confuse with reams of detail aren’t working; the Judge may not use Twitter, or understand the difference between a .jpg or a .png, but she doesn’t have to — they’re both photographs.

Judge: Let me see if I’ve got this all right. Mr. Sonne is on the mailing list for the TCMN. He gets an email about a presentation where Hiscocks and Henderson were going to speak about “black block or diversity of tactics”. We have no evidence that Mr. Sonne attended or that he associated with these women. Those emails are in, whatever they mean. Now you want me to accept their guilty pleas and use that to infer about the nature of the talk?
Unofficial Byron Sonne Trial Notes

Charter rights are supposed to protect citizens; they should not be so easily cast aside. It is reassuring that although Judge Spies isn’t tech savvy, she appears to see the big picture. Still, the smell of politics is strong in this one, and I don’t know how this will play out, and so I worry about the future. For my family, my community, my country.


Image Credits

Tethered Goat” by ceridwen released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Glossary

The Crown
refers to the Crown Attorney (the title of the government’s lawyer prosecuting the case under Canadian law) and/or the focus of the prosecution in the Canadian legal system.
["Prosecutor" or "District Attorney" would be the American equivalent]

The Charter
is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which is supposed to protect the human rights of Canadian citizens from government or justice system abuses.

Linux
(sometimes called GNU/Linux) is a free software computer operating system (OS), a software program (similar to Windows or MacOS) that allows a computer to function. Although there are basic differences in the way Linux systems operate, many technical people use Linux systems because they are free to customize them.

Hacker
There are two opposing definitions for the word “hacker.” The pejorative definition embraced by the mainstream media is as someone who subverts computer security. Yet for many in the computer security and programming subculture the word hacker is the highest accolade bestowed on verhttps://github.com/colah/ByronTrialNotes/blob/master/daily-notes/day27.mdy clever and often playful innovators and problem solvers. Among such programmers the word “cracker” is used to describe criminals who engage in criminal computer security breaches.

Twitter
an online network that allows two way sharing of information and/or conversation with friends and/or total strangers, best viewed on the Twitter site, not in a proprietary spreadsheet.


Must Listen:
Jesse Brown interviews security expert Dr. Kate Milberry on today’s Search Engine Audio Podcast #130:
The Legacy of the G-20: #Toronto’s #G20 Hangover

Post Script: Today the Crown cross examined the Defence witness. The evidence phase is over and court will resume Thursday at 10:30, 361 University Avenue, Toronto. Today’s Trial Notes are online.

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Of Masks and Freedom

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child in Zorro costume outside theatre

Arrested for wearing a mask?

As a child, I spent many an hour watching shows like “The Lone Ranger” and “Zorro” with my dad. My father made sure we were all grounded in super hero lore, where you will find ample justification for secret identities.

When I progressed from comics to real books I continued on in the same vein, reading the Scarlet Pimpernel books when I could get hold of them in high school. Maybe that’s why I have never questioned the validity of the idea that anonymity is so important for freedom.

Anonymity offers protection; we can say what needs to be said Without anonymity, fear of repercussion can silence the truth. Without a shield of anonymity, people must first weigh the harm speaking out can cause themselves and their families. For many the risk is too great.

It is the goal of repressive government to silence dissent, but it is positively disturbing to find this in our democratic governments.

Whistle blowing is an act of valour undertaken for the public good. Yet today we see Bradley Manning incarcerated and WikiLeaks under unremitting attack from nations that used to trumpet freedom.

Byron Sonne

Yellow Square bearing the words Free Byron in black text

Meanwhile, in Canada, our own Byron Sonne goes to court again this week. Byron was the Toronto G20 protester arrested before the G20, and held without bail for nearly a year.

In case you’re new to Byron’s story, he was a young man who had everything: a beautiful wife, a beautiful home, and a challenging security business. He lost all those things, along with his liberty for nearly a year, because he chose to protest the G20. Byron is fortunate, however, because he hasn’t lost everything, he still has the trust and strong support of his friends and family. The crown has dropped almost all the charges against him. Yet although the remaining charges appear dubious, they keep the sword of Damocles hanging over his head, with the possibility of possible further incarceration. As well the charges provide the basis for keeping Byron restrained under onerous bail conditions which compromise Byron’s ability to work in his chosen profession to earn needed funds to pay for his defence, among other things. And making things harder still, PayPal summarily closed Byron’s donation account, but it is still possible to make donations.

Byron Sonne did not wear a mask. He went about his business openly, broadcasting words and images on publicly accessible Internet venues like Flickr and Twitter. I very much doubt Byron was trying to hide his identity online; he certainly had the technical expertise to do so had that been his intent. He wouldn’t have lasted two minutes in the computer security business without the ability to cover his digital tracks online. I believe that it is telling that he made no real effort to do so.

The way our legal system has dealt with Byron Sonne raises disturbing questions:

  • Is justice blind, or are some Canadian citizens treated differently under the law?
  • Are Canadian citizens allowed to question what our government does?
  • Are we allowed to observe the actions our government and its representatives?
  • If we take photographs of police will we be arrested?
  • Are citizens allowed anonymity or can we be compelled to provide identity papers without cause?
  • Are we allowed to hold our government accountable?
  • Do citizens still have any civil liberties?
  • Are Canadians even allowed to discuss such things?

wooden African mask

Masks

In Canada Private Member’s Bill 309 seeks to criminalize the act of covering your face. There are many legitimate reasons to cover a human face. Hallowe’en masks are common today, but human beings have found cause to wear masks much longer, over centuries, religions and cultures.

Sometimes actors wear masks.

Allergy sufferers often wear masks to protect themselves from airborne allergens.

There are many cultures and religions requiring the covering of various parts of the human head.

Let us not forget, this is Canada. Many Canadians have had cause to wear hoods, hats and scarves to protect our heads from the elements.

All of these are excellent reasons for this Private Member’s bill to fail. After all, how often do Private Member’s Bill’s get passed, anyway? But Canada currently has a majority government, so it is very likely that this law will be passed.

If the wearing of a mask ~ or more telling, the covering of a face ~ in itself becomes a crime, it will be a horrendous blow to free speech in Canada. Some might feel that this law isn’t so bad, because Bill 309 would only make it illegal in certain circumstances. Except that the definition is broad enough it can be applied to any circumstance.

And the government gets to decide. The result of such legislation will make it far more dangerous for citizens to attend any sort of political protest at all. Even if you attend a peaceful protest without wearing a mask, things might get out of hand. You might not even be attending such a protest, but walking along the public streets minding your own business, yet may find yourself swept up and kettled by the police. This happened to many uninvolved Toronto residents during the G20.

If Bill 309 becomes law, the simple act of covering your face with your sleeve against tear gas in the air could lead to criminal charges.

Ironically there have been far too many instances of police officers removing their badges – and thus, choosing anonymity – prior to exceeding the scope of their legal authority and behaving in a criminal manner. Yet this far more dangerous behaviour (and evidence of premeditation)  has resulted in little if any repercussion and is not covered in this bill.

It isn’t possible to have a healthy democracy unless citizens have the right to free speech and peaceful protest.

gold masks from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival

The Emperor Has No Clothes ~ FreeByron

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What would you call a professional security consultant who tests the vaunted security apparatus of the billion Dollar G20 Summit that descended on Toronto like a pall last year?

You’d call him Byron Sonne.

A Canadian flag flies at half mast against a blue sky

In the children’s story I reference in the title, the child that pointed out the deficiencies in the Emperor’s wardrobe was listened to.

In Canada, for doing much the same thing — pointing out the deficiencies of the G20 security apparatus — Byron Sonne was arrested, incarcerated without bail for nearly a year, and is now undergoing the rigors of a trial.

the trial

Three days were scheduled for the Charter arguments — to decide whether the protections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms have been breached by law enforcement in this case. The Charter argument has stretched into two weeks.

The Toronto Star has released a video of one of Byron’s interrogations by Detective Tam Bui a day after his arrest on June 22nd last year. Watching this video is an up close and personal look at the Canadian justice system.

The reason citizens need some kind of protection from the law is that the law is far more powerful than most citizens will ever be.

In the video, we see the detective ask Byron about a whole host of things that he did.

  • Taking photographs in public places and posting them on Flickr.
  • Posting comments about the increased police presence for the G20 on Twitter.
  • Owning a potato cannon and air guns.
  • Possessing a variety of chemicals for various purposes that might be combined to make bombs.

“…why don’t you go down to Canadian Tire, why don’t you arrest them because they have all the ingredients…”

—Byron Sonne interrogation video released by the Toronto Star

I’m not a lawyer, but I didn’t think that any of these things are illegal.

Taking photographs in the public spaces of the municipality where you live isn’t illegal. Or, it didn’t used to be.

And when did taking photographs of law enforcement officers become illegal?

Back when I was in the seventh grade, I was on a class trip with my first camera when I happened across an RCMP officer dressed in the distinctive Red Serge “Review Order” dress uniform. I asked him to pose for me. And he did.

Now I’m an adult who takes plenty of photographs everywhere I go with my digital camera. And I post photographs on Flickr too. But these days, when I find myself photographing police officers, at the KW Multicultural festival for instance, I wonder: is this going to get me arrested?

I post comments about things that I perceive to be threats to democracy on Identi.ca, Twitter and Facebook all the time. I blog a lot, too. Is this going to get me arrested?

Personally, I’ve never owned anything like a potato cannon or an air gun. My older brother wanted an air rifle, just like Ralphie, when he was a kid. When he didn’t get one, he built himself a slingshot that I lacked the strength to use. But I’ve seen children using working trebuchets built by amateur enthusiasts at medieval festivals. The incredibly popular “Angry Birds” computer game involves shooting birds out of catapults to knock things down. How many people like playing shoot’em-up video games? . Clearly, people like shooting things.

Years ago I allowed my brother-in-law to put a plaster head I’d sculpted in my high school art class on a cedar rail fence and shoot it into plaster dust with his real hunting rifle. You know, one of those long guns that the Federal Government doesn’t want to have registered?

As a life long mystery buff. I’ve been reading and watching mysteries my whole life. I recall a Columbo episode that involved a chef killing someone with a frozen fish, then defrosting it and feeding the murder weapon to the guests at a dinner party. Most anything can become a murder weapon.

And if we are going to start talking about possessing chemicals that are legal to own, but that can then be combined to make a bomb, that covers an awful lot of ground. If you know anything about chemicals, you know that cleaning supplies can be used in many ways their manufacturers did not intended. I know never to mix bleach and ammonia because combined they make poison gas. Many perfectly useful things can be combined to make explosives.

Detective Bui:
This is a very structured, organized shelf of chemicals you have here. My understanding is that ammonium nitrate can be used in the construction of an incendiary device or an explosive device, is that correct?

Byron Sonne:
Yeah, but so can lighter fluid, so can your barbeque tank in your back yard, so can cooking oil in your house.

Detective Bui:
You’re a chemist, or an engineer or you definitely have a chemical background…

Byron Sonne:
not a licensed engineer

Detective Bui
OK. Do you have elements here that could be combined to make an explosive device?

Byron Sonne:
Ah, No, because I would not combine them into an explosive device.

Detective Bui:
But that wasn’t exactly my question. I’m asking do the elements exist. When we take a laundry list of items out of your house, and if we combine them in a certain manner could create an explosive device.

Byron Sonne:
I think that this interview might be over officer.

interrogation video released the Toronto Star

Boing Boing said it best: Law prof and cop agree: never ever ever ever ever ever ever talk to the cops about a crime, even if you’re innocent

If you watch the interview closely, you will see that Byron and the Detective are in agreement that none of the bits of “evidence” the detective asks Byron about are in and of themselves illegal. The detective doesn’t question that, instead, what he does is to try to get Byron to agree that the chemicals could be used to make a bomb, and that the cumulative effect of the evidence is how bad things look, and what other people might think of this or that.

Have I missed something? I thought that our legal system was based on facts and evidence, not innuendo.

What did Byron Sonne actually do?

He took photographs documenting the G20’s massive influx of security cameras, the deployment of security fences around public buildings, and police officers visible on public streets.

Byron Sonne pointed out security flaws in the G20 security apparatus.

And now he’s pointing out flaws in the Canadian justice system.

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further reading

For an idea of what has been happening in court, read the notes published here: colah / ByronTrialNotes

Read Byron Sonne’s Twitter stream @torontogoat

See Byron Sonne’s toronto_goat’s photostream on Flickr.

P.S. Follow

The Daily Ruse

as it chronicles the story of law and democracy in Canada.

~ laurelrusswurm, 19 November, 2011

Voter Apathy?

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Canadian Flag, Old City Hall, Toronto

Canadians are often admonished by the media for “voter apathy.”
In every election, the media complains about the high percentage of Canadians who don’t vote.

So why don’t Canadians vote?

Independent Canadian Journalist/Blogger Jason Koblovsky pointed to this excellent Parliament of Canada article:

Youth Voter Turnout in Canada – 2. Reasons for the Decline and Efforts to Increase Participation which provides both background and basic understanding of the “voter apathy” problem.

Voter apathy is not confined to the young.

This problem has spread through all of Canada. One powerful reason many Canadians, both young and old, feel disenfranchised by the system, is that:

“…many voters doubt that voting every four years
can truly influence the decision-making process …”

Youth Voter Turnout in Canada
2. Reasons for the Decline and Efforts to Increase Participation

Why don’t Canadians think we can make a difference?

It begins with our First-Past-the-Post electoral system.   We have electoral ridings where a mere 29% of the vote garners a plurality win. So although 29% has never been a passing grade at school, it is apparently enough to promote candidates into lawmakers. Inequities in the system leave too far many citizens without any voice at all in government. To learn more about electoral reform, visit the Fairvote Canada site and give their Fairvote Calculator a spin.

Because left to themselves, neither Liberal or Conservative parties are likely to enact electoral reform.
Why would they wish to alter the system that has, until now, allowed them to take turns ruling Canada?

Representative democracy?

Our Members of Parliament are supposed to represent us – and look out for our best interests – in Parliament.

Currently, there are enough citizens in each riding that if the elected Member of Parliament did nothing but meet constituents 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year, they would only be able to give each a few minutes of their time.

But they don’t.   Our elected Members of Parliament are in Ottawa for some of the year, making the laws that govern our lives.  And most people never seek out their MP unless they have a problem.   Which is a good thing, because there really is not enough time in a year for an MP to talk to every voter.

That’s why it is so important for constituents to have an opportunity to see the candidates who seek to represent them.

41st Election Campaign

Now that we are in the midst of an election, candidates are canvassing door-to-door.   It’s one of those folksy things designed to make politicians appear more accessible.

I know they’re canvassing because many of them are “tweeting” about canvassing on Twitter.   In fact, former Conservative Minster of Industry, Tony Clement, recently tweeted that he was engaged in friendly rivalry with the NDP candidate who was canvassing the very same street.

beautiful tree lined residential street in Toronto

Which got me thinking. I mean, seriously, if there isn’t enough time to speak to everyone they represent in the course of a year, how can they possibly manage it during the few weeks of an election? If most Canadians never get a candidate at their door during a campaign, why would a Conservative and NDP candidate end up canvassing the same street at the same time in the same election?

Clearly, candidates have to decide where to canvass.   Are they are targeting the same areas? And where are politicians going door to door?   In nice neighborhoods, of course.

In my entire life, I’ve actually only had candidates at my door twice, once for a municipal election and once federal.

Can it be that they only canvass the “better” neighborhoods?   A friend of mine was surprised to learn there is any door-to-door canvassing at all. He lives in the densely populated urban setting of my riding, in what is a residential mix ranging from single family dwellings to townhouses, low rises and high rises, with some subsidized housing on the side. You couldn’t ask for a better cross section of society.   Talk about the electorate in microcosm.

But he assumed that they didn’t do that anymore since he has never had a politician at his door.

Can it really be that door-to-door canvassing only happens in rich neighborhoods?   If that is true, is it any wonder that citizens who do not live in expensive neighborhoods feel disenfranchised?

urban street with 70's era apartment tower and hydro poles

How the 41st Election is being run: close to home

More than 115,00 citizens reside in the geographically huge Kitchener-Conestoga riding which combines three far flung rural townships with the densely populated southwestern part of the city of Kitchener.   What that means is this riding includes many of the very poorest citizens of Waterloo Region, including the unemployed, immigrants, students and the disabled, alongside young families starting out as inexpensively as possible.   At the same time the riding includes some of the region’s very richest citizens who reside in multi-million dollar homes situated in the surrounding townships.

This calendar provides information about 41st election events in Waterloo region. The first Kitchener-Conestoga all-candidates meeting took place in the tiny town of St. Agatha, a geographic location not served by public transit. And of course, this event happened at the start of the campaign so the newly minted Green Party candidate, Albert Ashley, wasn’t able to attend. In other words it wasn’t really an “all candidates” meeting.

A second all-candidates meeting was scheduled for in Elmira, another venue not served by public transit.
Well, if you wanted to arrive well before the meeting began, you could have attended, but Grand River Transit daily service concluded before the meeting actually began at 7pm, so you wouldn’t have been able to get home.

So.   The ONLY “all candidates” meetings in this riding were held in out of the way venues inaccessible to public transit.

Only citizens with cars are included in the electoral process. #FAIL

IXpress bus driving in urban area

Misconceptions

If Canadians were to vote for the candidates we want to elect instead of the candidates that strategic voting advocates convince us we have to vote for (and who are, in fact, the candidates the advocates support) we would see real change.

Canadians have long been told that majority government is a good thing. Yet, in practice majority government has the power to ignore citizens, so in reality majority government is only good for the winner (and their friends).

We are told elections are expensive, yet even if we held elections annually it would be far cheaper than the patronage that always happens with a majority government.

Conservative NDP Green and Liberal logos

four parties are capable of fielding a 41st national majority government

We are told that votes for the Green Party of Canada or the New Democratic Party are wasted, ineffectual because they can’t form a national government. Yet these two parties are fielding candidates across the entire country. This means Canada has four parties able to send enough candidates to Ottawa to form a majority government for #elxn41.

We are told that votes for small new parties or independent candidates are also wasted votes. Any party incapable of forming a national government is supposed to be a waste. Tell that to the Bloc Québécois. Ostensibly formed to lead Quebec separation from Canada, the BQ party has championed the rights of Quebec’s citizens at the federal level.

When we elect any candidates they are capable of giving citizens a voice in Ottawa (and even more so should there be a coalition government.) The Universal Health Care that Canadians value so much would never have come about but for just such a “fringe” party.

It is implied that only the Liberal Party of Canada and the Conservative Party of Canada are capable of governing because of their experience, taking turns. They have taken turns governing this country all along. Yet if we look closely, we can see that they are not the same. John Diefenbaker’s Conservative Party (the party that pulled the plug on the AVRO Arrow, and incidentally Canada’s aerospace industry) was very different from Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative Party (the party that gave us the GST, with the bulk of tax funds collected going into bureaucracy needed to administer it) and is in turn very different from Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party (itself a coalition made up from the merger of the Reform Party with the remnants of the PC Party).

Pirate Party of Canada logo

Supporting the alternating Liberal and Conservative parties has put Canada in the position we occupy today. We’ve gone from a nation of early adopters of digital innovation to a nation barely treading water in a digital world. Past Liberal and Conservative governments are equally culpable in allowing the erosion of Canada’s digital economy through favoring corporate special interests at the expense of Canadians.  Governments the world over have shown a woeful inability to understand crucial digital issues, and ours is no different.  That’s why the Pirate Party of Canada came into existence – to fight to safeguard Canada’s digital future.

Polls are treated as though their results are factual, and they tell us who will be elected before a single vote is cast. If polls were 100% accurate why do we need to hold an election? A small sampling, polls are far from a foregone conclusion. At worst, a poll can be slanted to misrepresent the situation, but even at best a poll is akin to an educated guess. A poll is not fact, but a survey.

All of these misconceptions are promoted vigorously by the mainstream media. It is very important to realize that mainstream media is anything but unbiased. The mainstream media has its own agenda, which does not reflect the best interests of citizens, but rather the needs of the corporations. (TV tax, Fox News North, Canadian DMCA, UBB… )

The mainstream media berating Canadians for low voter turnout has contributed directly to it through its propagation of misinformation.

DeMOCKracy

woman holds a sign reading "demockracy" overhead at a cold weather rally

While we worry about two tier health care we suffer from two tier democracy. Certainly the two problems are connected.

And a great many Canadians do not usually vote.

Instead of reaching out to voters who don’t ordinarily vote, it appears that today’s political parties only bother with the usual suspects.

Instead of reaching out to the disenfranchised, they attempt to change minds that are already made up for the most part.

As far as the Conservative and Liberal parties are concerned, they have only each other to beat. That’s why they like our seriously broken political system, and will certainly never enact electoral reform. After all, as Charlie Sheen says, they are #winning.

Canadian Politics

But are they really? I don’t think so.

Canadians are increasingly disgruntled.

We are generally becoming more politically aware than we have been for a long time because of the failures of our government. Participation in Politics looks at the way technology is giving citizens the means to have our voices heard. Canadian politics are in such disarray that the disenfranchised aren’t waiting anymore to be invited to participate in democracy.

The amount of anger on display in the streets at last year’s at last year’s no-prorogation rallies was palpable. And a great many of these citizens had never even marked an x on a ballot. But social media and the Internet have given us ways to communicate and mobilize as never before.

The fact that the “all candidates” meetings are drawing bigger crowds than expected is telling.

In an effort to attract students to voting, Elections Canada have been allowing campus polling stations to make it easier for students to vote. The Conservative Party attempted to have the votes cast at the University of Guelph polling station discounted but failed.

And we have a growing Vote Mobs multi-partisan movement started by actual Canadian young people under the name Leadnow. Our youth are certainly taking an interest.

Anything is possible.

Because an election wipes the slate clean. If Canadians wanted to, we could elect an NDP or Green Party majority, making Jack Layton or Elizabeth May Prime Minster without even needing a coalition.

The results of the last election is old news… history. What happened in the last election has no bearing on this one, unless we choose to learn from it.
red maple leaf graphic

No one has been elected for the 41st Parliament.

Every job position sits vacant, and it’s up to Canadians to decide who will fill them.

Canadian voices *can* be heard.  Go Canada!



Image Credits:
Original photographs by laurelrusswurm released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) License

Ding Dong Bill C-32 is Dead

with 4 comments

Canadian DMCA

I am happy that the writ was dropped before Bill C-32 was passed.

Is that a bad thing?

Of course it mans we have another federal election.

Copyright Reform Apathy

Not so long ago, Jesse Brown did a Search Engine podcast called So Bored of Copyright. He wasn’t alone in thinking that Bill C-32 was likely to be pushed through no matter how atrocious simply because everyone is tired of arguing about copyright. The thinking, shared by many other Canadian activists was that our elected representatives just want it to be over. I understand how difficult it is to fight the same fight over and over again. But still, there was a disturbing willingness to settle for bad law just because everyone is tired of it.

copyright symbol over a red maple leaf

That’s wrong.

Copyright law will impact on every Canadian. Our existing copyright law may not be perfect, but it isn’t as though we are a lawless nation of pirates, no mater what the USTR says to get a trade advantage. So I’m happy Bill C-32 is off the table, even if it does mean we’re having another Federal election. And I’m sure it will be back, but the longer it takes, there is less chance that we’ll end up with a copyright law benefitting special interest groups to the detriment of Canadian Culture.

Some people are tired of elections.

We’re having them too frequently, apparently.

Yet there are places in the world where there are no elections. Or where the election results are preordained.

Other people are unhappy because elections are expensive.

If we have a minority government, it stands to reason that we will have more elections. It is much harder to run a minority government because the government can’t operate in a vacuum.  They have to build a consensus. And sometimes even listen to what the citizens want.  And if they want to do something that the people think ill advised, we have some possibility of preventing it.

a pile of canadian money

Then some people think majority government is a good thing.   Talk about an expensive proposition.

Say what you want, our run of minority governments has meant very little in the way of patronage spending.   While majority governments are always awash in patronage.   That’s got to be worse.

Even with a minority our federal government managed to find a billion dollars for the G20.

Acryllic on Illustration board painting by Aviation Artist Lance Russwurm

The AVRO Arrow ~ painting by Lance Russwurm

Can you imagine? How many fighter jets would we have bought if there was a majority government? Wait a minute… fighter jets? Excuse me? If we want fighter jets, why don’t we build our own, shall we? You know, like the AVRO Arrow?

Citizens can’t afford NOT to have elections. We need as many as it takes.

I’ve heard some people are saying they will vote for the Conservative Party of Canada just to give them a majority, just to be done with this election business.

the NoProrogue rally in Guelph

You know what?

If you want to vote for a political party you don’t support, that is your democratic right.

You can use your vote to improve this great nation of ours, or you can waste your vote. You get to decide.

You can vote for the candidate you believe will do the best job for you, or you can vote the way someone else tells you to vote. It is entirely up to you.

You can vote strategically and vote for someone you don’t want to elect. It seems to me that strategic voting is always about voting for someone else;s candidate, never your own. That seems to me just as big a waste. But still, it is your right to choose.

You can spoil your ballot, which won’t count. Or not cast a vote at all.

Andrew Telegdi

A great many of us are frustrated because we’ve been ignored for so long. Many of us have given up because the people we vote for are never elected. In the Conservative stronghold where I live, Liberal candidate Andrew Telegdi lost his seat in the last Federal election by 17 votes. And one of the most powerful members of the incumbent government “tweeted”:

Minister of Industry Tony Clement

On Twitter, Tony Clement said:
@TonyclementCPC I use my 28 vote margin in 2006 all the time as an example of “every vote counts!”

The thing to remember is that when we abstain from voting, our voice, however small, is completely unheard. Abstaining from voting doesn’t “teach them a lesson,” it gives them our power. It makes it easier for fewer people to determine our government. All voter apathy does is to make electoral inequity worse.

You have the right not vote. But every vote not cast means that fewer votes hold greater sway. I am well aware Canadian votes count for more or less depending on geographical location. That’s bad enough. If you, like me, live in a place where your vote only counts for a fraction, blowing it off makes it worse. What government does affects all of us.

Debate and Democracy

GPC leader Elizabeth May with nearly a million constituents, not a seat in the House

This election will impact on us all too. Although we are desperately in need of electoral reform, we have to do the best we can with what we’ve got. So although it is your right to vote or not, I hope you decide to vote, and more, to vote the way you believe is best.

I’ve been trying to get the final proof of my novel done, so I’m spread a bit thin. Still, there’s been a flap about the proposed televised Federal Leadership Debate. The decision (by who?) has been made to exclude Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.

The story they are trying to sell is that her exclusion stems from the fact no Green party member has yet been elected. Naturally this speaks to the issue of Electoral reform, since nearly a million Canadian citizens cast Green votes in the last election without electing one.

The thing is, we might have bought that argument had Elizabeth May not participated in just such a debate in a previous election. Excluding her now is not only grossly unfair, but a sign of just how well she did last time.

Unlike our American Neighbors, Canada is a multi-party country. So long as our nation subscribes to party politics, I’m inclined to think that any leadership debate ought to include the leaders of every registered political party. The point of an election is that the slate is wiped clean. No one has been elected yet for the 41st Parliament. So all the candidates – and leaders – ought to be treated as equals. I’m sure that former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney would be happy to tell you what a difference an election can make.

It is in our own best interests to stand up for our democracy. The leader of Canada’s fledgling Pirate Party hit the nail on the head when he tweeted:

pirate party of canada

@mikkelpaulson

A vote for anyone other than your first choice undermines democracy. We should vote for,
not vote against

I don’t know about you, but as inefficient as our system is, and as badly as we need electoral reform, I’m rather partial to democracy.

And elections are a really good time to get out there and find out what the candidates think.

Or at least what they say.

Vote.

Canadian Political Party Logos

Registered Federal Canadian Parties include neorhino, Christian Heritage, Communist Party of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador First, Libertarian, Work Less Party, People’s Political Power Party, Green Party, First Peoples National Party, Bloc Quebecois, Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party, Marijuana Party, Canadian Action Party, Marxist Leninist Communist Party, and the NDP



Image Credits

AVRO Arrow, painting by Lance Russwurm

Andrew Telegdi photo by Chris Slothouber

Tony Clement, Twitter account image (fair dealing)

Elizabeth May photo by Grant Neufeld, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.5) License

All political logos reproduced as fair dealing.

All other images created by laurelrusswurm and released CC by-sa

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