Pharmacare Town Hall TONIGHT!

Our American friends are debating whether Health Care is a human right, but Canadians decided that it was long ago.  Which is why it is bizarre that, of all the countries with Universal Health Care, Canada is the only country that doesn’t have Universal Pharmacare!

In 2014, Dr. Eric Hoskins ~ Ontario’s Liberal Minister of Health and Long-Term Care ~ wrote an OpEd for the Globe and Mail explaining Why Canada needs a national pharmacare program

It has been estimated that Universal public drug coverage would:

  • reduce total spending on prescription drugs in Canada by $7.3 billion
  • save the Private Sector $8.2 billion
  • increase costs to government $1.0 billion

A Mowat Centre study published by  in in 2015 goes even further:

“Overall, it estimates a universal pharmacare plan would save up to $11.4 billion a year, with $1 billion of that saved just by no longer duplicating administrative costs in the current “patchwork” system.”

However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberal Government have more important things to worry about than the health of its citizens, so the Ontario Liberals Government has stepped up to the plate with an intention to add publicly funded pharmacare coverage for children and youth ~ adding to the patchwork system.

“Because Ontario is adding universal, comprehensive pharmacare coverage to the age group that uses medicines least often. Many working-age Ontarians, who are far more likely to require medicines than children, will still be uninsured.”

Why a universal pharmacare plan makes sense — now

Town Hall Meeting

This Wednesday, June 28th, the new KW Chapter of the Council of Canadians is hosting a Pharmacare Town Hall Meeting from 7 – 9pm at First United Church in Waterloo (map).  The Panel Discussion will include Dr. Sherilyn Houle (UW School of Pharmacy), Kitchener-Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife will be representing the NDP, and our own Stacey Danckert will represent the Greens.  Kitchener Centre MP Raj Saini (a pharmacist before going into politics) was supposed to be there representing the Liberal Party but backed out.

With a provincial election in the offing, this should be a lively event.  We hope to see you there!

Sign The Petition

Until July 13th you can sign Steve Morgan’s ePetition E-959 (HEALTH CARE SERVICES)

which calls upon the Government of Canada to:

1. Implement through a Federal law, a Pan-Canadian Universal Pharmacare Plan, in this 42nd Parliament; and
2. Implement a National Formulary for medically necessary drugs including a drug monitoring agency providing regulations and oversight to protect Canadians.
Even though the Trudeau government has demonstrated its unwillingness to do what Canadians ask in such petitions, it doesn’t hurt to try.

For more information download the PDFs of the Pharmacare studies:

CMAJ:  Estimated cost of universal public coverage of prescription drugs in Canada

Mowat Centre: Unfilled Prescriptions: the Drug Coverage Gap in Canada’s Health Care Systems

[largely reprinted from WRGreens Pharmacare Town Hall Wednesday!“]

Defenders of the Status Quo

Yesterday Canadian Members of Parliament voted against Nathan Cullen’s Motion to concur in the Second Report of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform ~ which would have meant adopting the ERRÉ Committee Recommendations

Yeas 146 | Nays 159

MPs who voted

Two Liberal MPs voted to concur in the Second Report of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform, but all the rest (159 LPC MPs) voted against it.  Find out who voted, and how on the Government site.

None of the ERRE Committee Liberals voted for their own report!   Francis Scarpaleggia, Ruby Sahota, Matt DeCourcey and John Aldag voted against, while Sherry Romanado (along with another 20 Liberal MPs) abstained from voting.

MPs who didn’t vote


  1. Frank Baylis ~ Liberal ~ Pierrefonds — Dollard (Quebec)
  2. Julie DabrusinLiberal ~ Toronto — Danforth (Ontario)
  3. Doug Eyolfson ~ Liberal ~ Charleswood — St. James — Assiniboia — Headingley (Manitoba)
  4. Ken Hardie ~ Liberal ~ Fleetwood — Port Kells (British Columbia) *
  5. Bernadette Jordan ~ Liberal ~ South Shore — St. Margarets (Nova Scotia) *
  6. Karen Ludwig ~ Liberal ~ New Brunswick Southwest (New Brunswick)
  7. Robert Morrissey ~ Liberal ~ Egmont (Prince Edward Island) *
  8. Seamus O’Regan ~ Liberal ~ St. John’s South — Mount Pearl (Newfoundland and Labrador)
  9. Sherry Romanado ~ Liberal #ERRE Committee ~ Longueuil — Charles-LeMoyne (Quebec)
  10. Randeep Sarai ~ Liberal ~ Surrey Centre (British Columbia)
  11. Scott Simms ~ Liberal ~ Coast of Bays — Central — Notre Dame (Newfoundland and Labrador) *
  12. Anita Vandenbeld ~ Liberal ~ Ottawa West — Nepean (Ontario)
  13. Hon. Larry Bagnell ~ Liberal ~ Yukon (Yukon)
  14. Hon. Judy Foote ~ Liberal ~ Bonavista — Burin — Trinity (Newfoundland and Labrador)
  15. Hon. Chrystia Freeland ~ Liberal ~ University — Rosedale (Ontario)
  16. Hon. Marc Garneau ~ Liberal ~ Notre-Dame-de-Grâce — Westmount (Quebec)
  17. Hon. Kent Hehr ~ Liberal ~ Calgary Centre (Alberta)
  18. Hon. Dominic LeBlanc ~ Liberal ~ Beauséjour (New Brunswick)
  19. Hon. Carla Qualtrough ~ Liberal ~ Delta (British Columbia)
  20. Hon. Geoff Regan ~ Liberal ~ Halifax West (Nova Scotia)
  21. Hon. Harjit S. Sajjan ~ Liberal ~ Vancouver South (British Columbia)
  22. Right Hon. Justin Trudeau ~ Liberal ~ Papineau (Quebec)
Justin Trudeau's Election Promise: "We will make every vote count."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau couldn’t even be bothered to show up.


  1. Mel Arnold ~ Conservative ~ North Okanagan — Shuswap (British Columbia) *
  2. Blaine Calkins ~ Conservative ~ Red Deer — Lacombe (Alberta)
  3. Hon. Ed Fast ~ Conservative ~ Abbotsford (British Columbia)
  4. Randy Hoback ~ Conservative ~ Prince Albert (Saskatchewan)
My own Conservative MP spoke in favour of the motion on Tuesday, then voted for it Wednesday.


  1. Niki Ashton ~ NDP ~ Churchill — Keewatinook Aski (Manitoba)
  2. Fin Donnelly ~ NDP ~ Port Moody — Coquitlam (British Columbia) *
  3. Peter Julian ~ NDP ~ New Westminster — Burnaby (British Columbia)
  4. Pierre Nantel ~ NDP ~ Longueuil — Saint-Hubert (Quebec)
  5. Tracey Ramsey ~ NDP ~ Essex (Ontario)


  1. Rhéal Fortin ~ Bloc Québécois ~ Rivière-du-Nord (Quebec)


  1. Hon. Hunter Tootoo ~ Independent ~ Nunavut (Nunavut)

I’m disapopointed to see almost half a dozen NDP MPs didn’t vote (even worse, some leadership candidates).  But even if all the non-Liberal MPs had voted, without more Liberals voting for it, the motion was bound to fail.  Which is why we need Proportional Representation.

Post Script: Corrections and Errata

I made 2 errors in compiling my list above, I knew how many MPs didn’t vote, I missed one Liberal non voter, and mistakenly included an NDP MP who did vote, which has now been corrected.  [As always, please let me know of any errors or ommissions.]

I understand the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans members had Committee business out west, so that kept some people away.

* Scott Simms LPC (absent)
Robert Sopuck CPC (yes)
* Fin Donnelly NDP (absent)
* Mel Arnold CPC (absent)
Todd Doherty CPC (yes)
* Ken Hardie LPC (absent)
* Bernadette Jordan LPC (absent)
Ken McDonald LPC (no)
* Robert Morrissey LPC (absent)

An Open Letter to ERRÉ Committee Liberals

Letter sent to: Francis Scarpaleggia, Ruby Sahota, Matt DeCourcey, Sherry Romanado and John Aldag

Dear ERRÉ Committee Members:

I am exceptionally invested in Electoral Reform; having watched and participated in many of your meetings as well as being involved in many local DIY Community Dialogues and Information Sessions.  I was unable to attend your single Ontario stop on your Cross Country Tour in Toronto because we were putting on a previously scheduled Info Night in a local library. After a life spent voting in every election for over three decades my vote has never actually elected an MP or an MPP.  I am frankly tired of electoral futility, and especially of being a second class citizen.

It isn’t that I’ve been voting for some wild fringe party– over the years I have voted for candidates from each of the 4 major parties in English Canada.  But the futility of casting my vote had me considering joining the ranks of non-voters … until I started learning about Proportional Representation.

It’s time Canada actually became the Representative Democracy I was told it was back in High School.  Not just for me, but for my son.  And my nieces and nephews… and everyone else’s kids, too.  Because I was raised to leave a place better than I found it.   And at least once before I die, I’d like to know that when I vote, it might actually count.

When MPs tell me they can represent all their constituents they are wrong.  Oh, sure, any good MP can represent all their constituents in their constituency work, but that is not why MPs are sent to Ottawa.  150 years ago that wasn’t even in the job description.   We voters send you to Ottawa to represent us, but the First Past The Post reality is that when MPs are in the legislature, you vote the way the party tells you.

What’s In It For You

Here’s the thing: MPs started out with the wherewithal to speak for themselves, and decide for themselves how best to represent their constituency when voting on legislation.  But over time ~ due in no small part to the winner-take-all elements of our antiquated First Past The Post  electoral system ~ they were asked to abdicate more and more of that power to the party as the price of getting elected.  The result is that today’s backbenchers vote the way they are told.  If they don’t, they might find themselves without a party to help them get re-elected.  And you and I both know it’s next to impossible to get elected as an Independent these days.

A Liberal MP I know told me LPC MPs are worried about Proportional Representation because they are afraid they’ll have a harder time getting re-elected because it will level the playing field for the other parties.  And while that is true, it is also true MPs with a solid connection to their own base won’t be swept away when the pendulum swings back and forth between Liberals and Conservatives.  MPs who are good at their jobs are more likely to keep them as long as they like… even until they retire.  Seems to me that’s better job security.

But best of all: any reasonable form of Proportional Representation– even the party-centric Mixed Member Proportional (MMP), will give some of that power back to you MPs: because when every vote counts, your constituents will be able to re-elect you, even if you have a falling out with your party.

What’s In It For Me

I have this crazy idea voters ought to be represented in our Representative Democracy.  We need Proportional Representation.

No doubt the Liberal Party expects to weather the storm of not delivering on this promise, but will it?  I wonder.

Do you realize more eligible voters did not vote than voted Liberal?

Since Confederation both Canadian governments and the Main Stream Media have done their best to keep us in the dark, but the genie is out of the bottle.  If you fail to deliver the electoral reform you’ve promised, you aren’t just going to lose the strategic voters who swung the pendulum your way, you’re losing a big chunk of the Liberal base.

Even when Fair Vote Canada was in its infancy, Canadians knew there was something wrong with our system, even when we didn’t know what.  When citizens feel they need to vote swap or vote for a lesser evil because that’s the only way to have a ghost of a chance of getting representation, the representative democracy is in trouble.

The best thing for electoral reform to Proportional Representation was PM Harper’s phony majority.  It made growing numbers of Canadians question the way we do things, and start to look for answers.  But the next best thing for Proportional Representation was PM Trudeau’s sales pitch.  Canadians bought it; and more are learning about it every day.  If Mr. Trudeau was going to pull the plug on electoral reform he should have done so before the throne speech.  It’s too late now.  There is no doubt in my mind we are approaching (or maybe even at) a tipping point.  And it isn’t just us… our American and British friends are looking hard at electoral reform.


In spite of Ms. Monsef’s initial suggestion Canada would be leading the way on electoral reform, the sad truth is we have been trailing behind all the other truly progressive countries for decades.

This issue has already had more input than any other I’ve heard of in Canadian history.  Certainly no e-Petition has had anything close to the response of Mr. Cassels’ e-616 130,000+ signatures.

There is an enormous amount of data from the 90+ countries that use Proportional Representation– some for more than a century.  The consensus of experts and Canadians before the ERRÉ Committee and in all manner of consultation has been for Proportional Representation.  If you were unable to learn enough from the expert testimony you heard, or if you are unable to put aside your partisanship to do the job Canadians expected of you on the ERRE Committee, you are in the wrong career.  My choice is Single Transferable Vote, but any reasonable form of Proportional Representation will be fine.

Any of you who vote against Mr. Cullen’s Motion will demonstrate exactly why Proportional Representation is not an option, but a necessity.  Canadians don’t need more consultation, what we need is fair representation.  We sent you MPs to Ottawa to make it so.

Let me leave you with a cautionary tale: 

Not too long ago a UK Government promised Electoral Reform.  They weren’t so brazen as to disavow the promise; they delivered a referendum.  Except they forgot to include Proportional Representation…. it was between the two winner-take-all systems First Past The Post and Alternative Vote(aka Preferential Ballot).  When AV lost, those politicians thought they’d won.  And they knew they won when the odious UKIP party’s more than 2 million votes returned only a single seat.  UKIP was denied the seats it would have earned with Proportional Representation system.  The UK was saved from the machinations of Mr. Farage… or at least that’s what they thought.  But since he had all that time on his hands, he cast about for another way to get what he wanted.   Which turned out to be BRexit.  So who won, really?

May 31st, 2017

I’ve written this to encourage you to support Mr. Cullen’s Motion to concur in the Second Report of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform.
Please do.

Laurel L. Russwurm

postscript:  I haven’t added the article about the vote outcome to the PR4Canada series, but you can read it here.

Canadians Deserve Better -Proportional Representation - on Canadian Flag backgroundThis is the thirty-second article in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series

Canada is Ready 4 Proportional Representation

Proportional Representation Series So Far:

• Proportional Representation for Canada
• What’s so bad about First Past The Post
• Democracy Primer
• Working for Democracy
• The Popular Vote
• Why Don’t We Have PR Already?
• Stability
• Why No Referendum?
• Electoral System Roundup
• When Canadians Learn about PR with CGP Grey
• Entitlement
• Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote
• #ERRÉ #Q Committee
• #ERRÉ #Q Meetings & Transcripts
• Take The Poll ~ #ERRÉ #Q
Proportionality #ERRÉ #Q 
• The Poll’s The Thing 
• DIY Electoral Reform Info Sessions
• What WE Can Do for ERRÉ
• #ERRÉ today and Gone Tomorrow (…er, Friday)
• Redistricting Roulette 
• #ERRÉ submission Deadline TONIGHT!
#ERRÉ Submission by Laurel L. Russwurm
• The Promise: “We will make every vote count” #ERRÉ
FVC: Consultations Provide Strong Mandate for Proportional Representation #ERRÉ
PEI picks Proportional Representation
There is only one way to make every vote count #ERRÉ
Canada is Ready 4 Proportional Representation
Sign the Petition e-616
#ProportionalRepresentation Spin Cycle ~ #ERRÉ
• International Women’s Day 2017 ~ #IWD
• An Open Letter to ERRÉ Committee Liberals

and don’t forget to check out the PR4Canada Resources page!

Power vs People

How many votes does it take to get a seat in Parliament?
How many votes does it take to get a seat in Parliament?

It’s hard enough for small parties to get elected under our miserably unfair winner-take-all electoral system.

Although the Trudeau Government won a majority of seats in Parliament on the promise of making every vote count as of 2019, it seems Mr. Trudeau has decided he would rather keep the system so disproportional that Liberal candidates only need 38,000 votes to get elected on average, but the Green Party needed 600,000+ votes to elect a single MP.

But that’s not the only institutional barrier to getting candidates elected in small parties.  The Main Stream Media (or MSM) — that’s the big TV networks and the major newspapers — support the status quo too.  Face it, it is a lot easier for them to give the lion’s share of the media coverage to only two candidates.  In a country where the single biggest advertiser is our government, the MSM knows which side butters their bread.  Nor does it stop there, as the Toronto Star tells us that’s just the tip of the iceberg: there are subsidies and tax breaks galore. (As a recipient of many of those government tax dollars, the Star is, unsurprisingly a big supporter.  Oh, and let’s not forget bail outs.  After doubling his own salary in 2013Postmedia’s Godfrey wants lifeline of tax breaks, bigger government ad spending,and then the poor man was forced to accept nearly a million dollars as a “retention bonus.”   Although the alternative media explains Government bailout of corporate media is not the solution to our crisis there is not a lot of listening going on.  Is it any wonder our MSM supports the status quo?

2017 By-elections

Although there are rules, small parties and independent candidates continue to get short shrift during elections.

The problem we often lose sight of is that when small parties and independent candidates get short shrift, it means voters do too. The reason small parties come to exist because citizens feel unrepresented by the big parties.  But every year it gets harder and harder to elect anyone else.

Voters need need to know who all the candidates who want to represent them in Ottawa are.  They need to know what’s actually on the menu so they don’t have to settle for second best.  But even voters who support the big parties have problems getting the representation they want from the inside.  When a party foists it choice of a candidate on an Electoral District Association it’s called “parachuting in” a candidate.  This top down process deprives the party members at the local level from choosing for themselves who will run in the election under their party.

In spite of Prime Minister Trudeau’s initial “real change” commitment to keeping his hands off the candidate nomination process in his own party, his fingerprints have been all over them pretty much from the start.  And it’s still happening.  You know it’s bad when the local Liberal candidates ends up publicly complaining about it in the MSM, as happened when PM Trudeau decided to impose one of his assistants on Markham—Thornhill.

Even when voters back the candidate they support in the Party they want, they can still find themselves disappointed or even feeling betrayed when the government they wanted turns its back on its commitments.

Big Guns

During a regular federal election, Prime Ministers and Party Leaders have their own campaigns to run, but they carve out some time here and there to drop in on candidates across the country to lend their name brand support to the electoral contest.  During a By-election period, they don’t have their own campaigns to run; which is how both the Prime Minister and Opposition Party Leader wound up in Calgary, stumping for their respective candidates in ridings recently vacated by ex-Prime Minister Stephen Harper and ex-cabinet minister Jason Kenney (newly elected Alberta’s provincial Conservative Party leader).

Guess which party’s candidates are getting the most press?

Fair Representation

Democracy is supposed to give citizens a say in our own governance.

But when we don’t have equal and effective votes, we don’t get fair representation.

When the deck is stacked in favour of the big political parties so only their candidates can get elected, we can’t get fair representation.

When a political system doesn’t work for a majority of the voters, people stop voting so they get no representation.

Or when people are afraid to vote for who they want and vote for someone they don’t want to stop someone they hate from getting elected, there is no longer any hope for fair representation.

Without fair representation, democracy stops being democracy.

Mr. Trudeau has disavowed his promise for electoral reform, but that is not his decision to make.  It’s ours.  So we need to keep pressuring them.  If the Liberals fail to win any of the 5 By-elections, it would certainly be a very clear message to Mr. Trudeau.  And I’ve no doubt it would increase our chance of getting the promised Proportional Representation.

Smart Voting Tips:

  1. If we really want real change, we need to start voting for politicians who will actually deliver it.
  2. We need to vote… even the disenchanted need to vote.  Do you know, more people didn’t vote than voted for the Trudeau Government?  If all the eligible voters who don’t vote would vote, we would see real real change.
  3. The first thing to remember that opinion polls are just the opinions of a tiny sample of people, kind of like the surveys they cite on Family Feud.  Don’t vote for anyone but the candidate you want.
  4. Even votes that don’t count have power.
  5. The more voters who give up in frustration, the easier it is for the defenders of the status quo to keep things from changing.
  6. Unless we start voting for what we want, we will never get it.

Power To The People

Right now there is a shade more than a week left before the 2017 By-elections will be decided on April 3rd.  There aren’t enough by-elections to change the balance of power in Ottawa, so the usual arguments for strategic voting have no power.  Which means vote for what you want.

If there is a By-election in your riding, find out who your choices are.  You can even volunteer for the candidate you like best, and maybe even help her win.

I imagine there are a fair number of Liberal supporters living in Markham—Thornhill who are annoyed to have local candidates cast aside to make way for one of the PM’s friends.  Such shenanigans undermine the local representation Canadians want.  This would be an excellent time for angry Liberals to swing their votes.  

If I were a Markham—Thornhill voter, I’d be volunteering for Caryn Bergmann because she supports the things I do… including Electoral Reform and Climate Action, and I think she will fight for them in Ottawa.  But I’m not, so all I can do is cheer her on from the peanut gallery.

If you are a Markham—Thornhill voter, I urge you to attend Thursday’s All Candidates Debate to get a good look at the choices.  Find out where they stand, decide who will best represent you.

Then vote.

It’s time to take back our democracy.



Broken Promise Tour with Nathan Cullen

The ERRE Committee’s Nathan Cullen (NDP) will be crossing Canada making stops in Liberal ridings to demonstrate how much support there actually is for electoral reform!

“There’s one last vote on electoral reform in Parliament before the May deadline. After that, it could be too late to set up a new voting system in time for the next election.

This spring, MPs will vote on whether to accept the recommendations of the Canada-wide consultation tour, including that the government hold a referendum where Canadians can choose between the current voting system and a proportional one.

We just need 20 Liberal MPs to keep their promise and vote YES to electoral reform.”

Nathan Cullen

Visit the Website to find out the itinerary to find put when the Broken Promise Tour will be coming your way:

Help convince Liberal MPs to keep their promise and vote YES to electoral reform before the May vote.

Three Ways to Help Canada win this vote!

#1 Bring your family and friends out to your local event
(contact Nathan Cullen or your local NDP folk to get involved to help bring the tour your way)

#2 Circulate the Petition and ask your family, friends and neighbors to sign on.

Go door to door, or spend an hour or two with your clipboard outside City Hall, your grocery store, Speakers Corner etc.
Get signatures at family gatherinngs or local activities or events (ie after church, at PTA or service club meetings, fundraising events etc.)

Petition calling on the Government of Canada to keep its promise of electoral reform.

#3 Download & mail Nathan Cullen’s Postcard

Download the “Keep Your Promise” post card

Your local Fair Vote Canada chapter may have a post -card you can send, or you can make your own.  You can even send your own letter to your Liberal MP (better yet, say it is an open letter and send a copy to your local newspaper!)

Fair Vote Canada’s “Keep Your Promise” postcard, and our Waterloo Region Chapter’s postcard for Kitchener Centre MP Raj Saini quoting his own words from the 2015 Election campaign.

Electoral reform is not dead, the movement is growing.
Because every vote should count.


NOTE:  The original title of this article was “Nathan Cullen’s Broken Promise Tour” which is the name of the tour I was given by my Fair Vote Canada friends.  

But I’ve been notified that the title has been truncated to “Nathan Cullen’s Broken Promise” on at least one third party platform preview.

This certainly gives the wrong impression!  Rather like the “Too Cool To Do Drugs” Pencil.  In future I will strive to ensure the first few words of the title don’t mislead if truncated.  ~ LLR

Trudeau Government: Omnibus Rules

An excellent tool to keep track of whether or not the Trudeau Government is fulfilling the promises made in its election platform is the non-partisan collaborative citizen initiative website called the “TrudeauMeter.”   We are reminded

Trudeaumeter On the use of Omnibus Bills: Parliament:

“Change the House of Commons Standing Orders to end practice of using inappropriate omnibus bills to reduce scrutiny of legislative measures.”

So far there has been absolutely no movement to keep this promise.

Instead, what we are seeing here is that the Trudeau Government has chosen to use an inappropriate omnibus motion to change the House of Commons Standing Orders, reducing what little power opposition parties in phony majority governments (eg Mr. Trudeau’s Government, which he likes so much he’s disavowed his clear electoral reform promise to replace our unfair winner-take-all voting system).

“We’re filibustering to protect the right to filibuster. Who would have thought it would be this government, under this prime minister” to try to use its majority to make changes to the Standing Orders without all-party backing, he said. “It’s not your House… we have rights, too.”

NDP MP David Christopherson quoted in Hill Times: Opposition MPs declare ‘war’ over feds’ efforts to ram through sweeping changes to House rules, ‘we’re filibustering to protect the right to filibuster’

Follow intrepid reporter @Kady O’Mally’s Twitter Stream:

Christopherson also suggests the committee consider "the Cullen model," a la #ERRE, where no one party has a majority.

You can read her whole twitter stream on this own article complete article behind the iPolitics paywall by logging in if you are a memnber or by signing up for a free trial if you are not.

Rather than making Parliament more transparent, this is yet another attempt to make it more efficient for a party with a phony majority to undemocratically impose its will on our nation.   Promising one thing and not doing it is bad enough, doing the opposite of what you’ve promised is unacceptable.  In a democracy, that is.

Although CPAC is not covering this, @Kady is LiveTweeting, so Canadians can follow along and watch this unfold…

[CORRECTION NOTE: In the original version of this article I incorrectly described the “Omnibus Motion” as an “Omnibus Bill,” which I have corrected in this version. ~ LLR]

Canadian Senate Blues

They call it “the Red Chamber” but it sure seems like Canadians have been singing the Senate Blues for most of my life.

In the dying days of the Harper Government, the misadventures of Senator Mike Duffy proved to be a major embarrassment for the Canadian Government.  By the time the dust settled, Duffy had resigned from the Conservative Caucus, the criminal charges against him were dropped, and Duffy, now an un-aligned independent, resumed his seat as Senator for PEI (even though he still doesn’t actually seem to live there). Then Prime Minister Stephen Harper was certainly mixed up in Mr. Duffy’s case, but was never properly investigated or held to account.

But Duffy’s case was just the tip of the iceberg. The Auditor General report identified thirty (THIRTY!) past and present Canadian senators or former senators as having “made inappropriate or ineligible expense claims.”  In addition to being implicated in the expense scandal, 39 year old Senator Patrick Brazeau had a host of still unresolved other problems.   About a year ago Press Progress shared an Angus Reid Opinion Poll that suggested only 6% of Canadians were happy with the Senate as is.

Senate Thrones

Real or Imagined?

Canada’s new Trudeau Government had ostentatiously promised, ahem, real change.

And yet, once again, there are Senators making news in ways that reflect very poorly on Canada’s Upper House.

Interim Conservative Party Leader Rona Ambrose has called for the resignation of Stephen Harper appointee Senator Don Meredith after Senate Ethics Officer Lyse Ricard’s investigation exposed his inappropriate sexual relationship with a teen.

Senator Meredith has made it abundantly clear he has no intention of going quietly, even though the other Senators are determined to expel Don Meredith after his relationship with teenage girl.

It has become increasingly clear that a code of conduct that hopes miscreants will quietly resign in the face of exposure is simply not sufficient. Real change requires a framework that allows for summary suspensions of Senators (and MPs) accused of impropriety and/or lawbreaking, removing them from office if such charges proven. Our Westminster System of government was designed for a feudal society that allowed the nobility to get away with a great deal.  But in a society that aspires to citizen equality there is no place for such abuses of power.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, now we learn Senator Lynn Beyak, member of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples  has spoken up in defence of the “abundance of good” in Residential Schools.

I speak partly for the record, but mostly in memory of the kindly and well-intentioned men and women and their descendants — perhaps some of us here in this chamber — whose remarkable works, good deeds and historical tales in the residential schools go unacknowledged for the most part and are overshadowed by negative reports. Obviously, the negative issues must be addressed, but it is unfortunate that they are sometimes magnified and considered more newsworthy than the abundance of good.

Honourable Lynn Beyak, Senate Debates: Increasing Over-representation of Indigenous Women in Canadian Prisons

As might be expected, Senator Beyak’s attitude has not gone over well.  CBC reports Senator’s residential school comment ‘hurts the integrity of the Canadian system,’ survivor says.  The Liberal Indigenous Caucus issued a statement asking Senator Beyak to “resign from the Senate as her views are inconsistent with the spirit of reconciliation that is required in both chambers of Parliament.”  Committee Chair Senator Lillian Eva Dyck agrees Senator Bayek’s should resign after her ill-informed and insensitive comments.

Even the United Church had some strong words for the Hon. Ms. Beyak:

“Indigenous peoples and organizations have responded to Senator Beyak’s comments. As one of the parties responsible for the operation of residential schools, The United Church of Canada also feels a responsibility to respond.

“Senator Beyak spoke of the “good intentions” behind the residential schools system. Thirty years ago, The United Church of Canada apologized to First Nations Peoples for our role in colonization and the destruction of their cultures and spiritualties. In the process of preparing, delivering, and attempting to live out that Apology, we have learned that “good intentions” are never enough, and that to offer such words in explanation is damaging and hurtful.

“The United Church of Canada participated in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission not just as part of a legal agreement but also as part of a moral and ethical commitment to understand the impact of our role in the residential schools system, to atone for it, and to participate in healing and building of a new relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.”

— Moderator: Senator Beyak’s Comments on Residential Schools

Not everyone is right for every job, and it’s pretty clear to everyone but Senator Beyak that she is not a good fit for the Senate of Canada.  Again, there doesn’t seem to be any provision to remove her in spite of the growing outcry.  The longer this goes on, the worse the Senate, and, indeed the Government of Canada looks.

Canadians need a government capable of governing itself with decorum and accountability.

As often happens in Canada’s unrepresentative democracy, there is a Petition:

We demand the resignation of Senator Lynn Beyak and issuance of a formal apology

It seems Canada’s unfair First Past The Post electoral system continues to engender a political culture of shameless entitlement even (especially?) in our un-elected Senate. A democratic government that fails to answer to its citizens is seriously dysfunctional.

Image Credits

Senate photos by Makaristos have been dedicated to the public domain.  Click the images to find the originals on Wikimedia Commons.