Why I’m NOT #Proud of #Canada150

Electoral Reform?

For someone generally proud to be lucky enough to be Canadian, instead of being excited about Canada Day on our nation’s 150th Anniversary, I was embarrassed to be a Canadian. Not because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau believes himself to be an all powerful autocrat with the right to over rule his own party’s overwhelmingly adopted policy and thumb his nose at the majority of Canadians who believe Canada ought to provide citizens with fair representation.   That was bad, that was really, really bad, but that isn’t it.

Money?

We had a big coast to coast half a billion dollar party CBC reports that More than 70% of Canada 150 swag made outside the country

Oh, but that’s not the government’s fault:

The government argues that international trade agreements don’t allow it to restrict the competition for government contracts to Canadian companies or manufacturers — even when it comes to Canada 150 merchandise.

Its all the fault of those pesky “free trade” agreements, not the governments who negotiated these agreements in secret then sign & ratify them so they have no choice but to require massive changes to our domestic law (and now unaccountable international corporate trade tribunals to fine us if we fail) to comply.  This excuse is a classic case of adding insult to injury.

Annoying as that is, that is not my problem.

Colonialism150?

Bingo!  The problem is colonization, something that didn’t just happen hundreds of years ago, but a process continuing as Canadian government policy to this day.

Continue reading

Louis Riel Day

Louis Riel (public domain: circa 1870)

“November 16 is a significant date for Métis people and all people in Ontario. On this date in 1885, Métis leader Louis Riel was executed for leading the Northwest Resistance in defence of Métis rights.

Today, Louis Riel is recognized as a statesman, having played a pivotal role in the history of Métis people, as well as the formation of Canada.  We commemorate Louis Riel Day annually to honour and celebrate Riel’s contributions, as well as the wide-ranging contributions the Métis people continue to make in Ontario.

Acknowledging Louis Riel’s contributions helps recognize and build respect for the history, culture and identity of Métis people. We will continue working with Métis partners to uphold Riel’s legacy and create new opportunities for Métis people as we continue on the journey of reconciliation together.”

David Zimmer, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation

Louis Riel’s life was rather more interesting than that of the average Canadian statesmen.  Today is the anniversary of his execution on 16 November, 1885.

 Riel’s historical reputation has long been polarized between portrayals as a dangerous half-insane religious fanatic and rebel against the Canadian nation, or by contrast a heroic rebel who fought to protect his Francophone people from the unfair encroachments of an Anglophone national government. He is increasingly celebrated as a proponent of multiculturalism, although that downplays his primary commitment to Métis nationalism and political independence
Louis Riel, Wikipedia

Read the Metis Nation‘s more complete account of Louis Riel.

Follow @MetisNationON on Twitter

Kitchener Stop Bill C-51 March TODAY

Keep Canada free - STOP Bill C-51

Today there will be a Stop Bill C-51 march in Kitchener [here’s a map]

Concerned citizens will leave Montgomery Park at 5:00pm and march to Victoria Park.

The march will be followed by discussion and a barbeque in Victoria Park.

march route

On Saturday there will be a STOP BILL C-51 CONVERGENCE at Parliament Hill, fittingly at the Human Rights Monument, where concerned citizens will protest this dreadful proposed legislation (currently before the Senate) that will render Canadian civil rights protections meaningless.  Protests will again be held in a Canada Wide DAY OF ACTION.  There are buses being arranged to take concerned citizens from Toronto to Ottawa.

Canadian civil rights are supposed to be protected by the Canadian Bill of Rights introduced by Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, part of the Canadian Constitution repatriated by Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.  These rights we have are based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This is NOT a partisan issue, this is a Canadian issue: we ALL need civil rights.

It is legally unconstitutional to breach these rights, and yet Mr. Harper plans to do it anyway (and has been so far been shamefully supported by the Liberal Party.)   Kind of tells you what the Harper Government thinks of our Constitution.

The Senators are indeed partisan which has been proven time and again as Prime Ministers from Brian Mulroney to Jean Chrétien to Stephen Harper have proven by stacking the Senate again and again and again as the Senate provides its rubber stamp to increasingly bad legislation.

Stripping Canadians of civil and human rights protections will not make us safe; that is the Big Lie.

Civil rights protect us.

If the Senate follows along like sheep on an issue of this magnitude, an issue that strikes at the heart of every Canadian, it would resoundingly prove that there is no hope for this body to ever provide Canadians with sober second thought, and I will finally come to agree with Mr. Mulcair’s intention to remove it from the Canadian political landscape when his NDP forms government this fall.

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An afternoon with Michael Harris

I’ve heard it said that journalist Michael Harris* is one of the few Canadian journalists actually doing the job.

Last month Fair Vote Canada’s Waterloo Region Chapter and the awesome indie book seller Words Worth Books brought the iPolitics journalist and author of Party of One: Stephen Harper And Canada’s Radical Makeover to Waterloo Region for a talk about democracy in Canada.

Michael Harris consider's Jason Kenny's logic:  My goodness, Jason Kenny out there beating the

One of the topics Harris touched on in his talk at the Registry Theatre in Kitchener was the mainstream media.  He suggested there is a greater concern for protecting access to the government than reporting on it.

Although Michael has had a long and impressive career, I’d only begun reading his political commentary and reportage fairly recently. Like many Canadians, once I began to realize how unrepresentative Canadian government actually is, having been one of Canadians unrepresented on Parliament for my entire life, I’d pretty much given up on politics in frustration.

But that all changed when I began to learn about Proportional Representation.  Once I discovered there was a way Canada’s democratic deficit might finally be addressed, I started paying attention again.  Sadly, it seems I left it a little late.

But not Michael Harris.  He’s been in the political trenches for years, not just reporting on miscarriages of justice but writing books that work to fix the the things that are broken.  Michael’s clear eyed ability to get to the heart of things is a big part of why he does such a great job of illuminating the murky corners of the Canadian political system.   Not only does he provide valuable insight, he’s got a lot of “war stories” and flair for telling them.

I was able to record Michael’s talk, and today Michael Harris at the Registry Theatre is edited and online.  Those who were there and want to hear it again and those who weren’t able to attend on the day are in for a treat– enjoy.

Thanks so much, Michael.


*not to be confused with former Ontario Premier Mike Harris, or current Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris
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Image Credit: Michael Harris on Bill C-51 by Laurel Russwurm is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) License. You’ll find more images in the Flickr Album

What is the Scandal, Really?

Ontario PC Attack on Kathleen Wynne

At the provincial level of government in Ontario, the Progressive Conservative Party is attempting to stick the new leader of the current Liberal minority government, Kathleen Wynne, with responsibility for the fiscal penalty Ontario incurred when the previous government cancelled approved Gas Plants in an attempt to ensure re-election.

Ontario PC Leader, Tim Hudak (cc by laurelrusswurm)
Ontario PC Leader, Tim Hudak

history

While government fiscal irregularity is nothing to be sneezed at, we should note that Mr. Hudak’s outrage is never directed at his own party’s past malfeasance. Take, for example, the sale of the 407, an Ontario Toll Highway back when the Progressive Conservatives last held power in Ontario.

The construction of the 407 was taxpayer funded for years, bankrolled largely by funds collected through inflated license renewal fee for local drivers (charged far more than other Ontario drivers). But as the highway neared completion, instead of adding the new 407 to the province’s existing system of free highways paid for by taxpayers, the PC Government of the day sold it out from under taxpayers.

Without any consulation at all.

It was a very good deal for an unaccountable private company, but a rather bad one for the Ontario taxpayers who funded it without any benefit. Unless, of course, you were a taxpayer who could afford to pay to drive on the private highway created largely at public expense.

spin

The important part of the gas plant story isn’t that it was cancelled due to political expediency, but rather that it was approved at all.

The cancellations clearly illustrate that the McGuinty Liberal Government understood very well that the majority of local residents were opposed to the gas plants. The fact is, Liberal government policy gave unfair advantage to commercial interests ignoring the public good.

One would assume that the point of embracing green energy would be in support of environmental improvement. Yet plunking gas plants down in a heavily populated area doesn’t improve the environment for the local citizens. Siting undesirable industries in close proximity to residential areas loses sight of the public good.

No legislation should allow developers carte blanche. There must be a balance between citizen needs, corporate interests and government policy, absent from the Green Energy Act. The disturbing part is that Mr. Hudak doesn’t question the undemocratic imposition of a provincial policy that strips away citizen rights. If he held majority power, would he govern any differently?

Ontario’s Green Energy Act is an example of law made without proper scrutiny or balance, only possible because we are saddled with an inequitable unaccountable First Past The Post electoral system that gives 100% of the power to a few.  Proportional Representation is necessary at all levels of government if we are to have real democracy. No government should be able to ignore the needs of citizens with impunity.

The real question should be:

“Why were the gas plants approved in the first place?”

Protesters in front of Woolwich Township Offices
In spite of local oppostion, the Ontario Ministy of the Environment approved the enormous Bio Gas plant
(adjacent to parkland, residential settlement, elementary schools, and downtown)

Now is the time that Kathleen Wynne’s government should be working to effect meaningful electoral change. Ontario desperately needs an electoral system that will provide Ontario with Proportional Representation.  

We will never have accountable government until all our votes count.

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Image Credits:
PC Website Screen Capture used under Fair Dealing
Tim Hudak and Elmira Protest by laurelrusswurm a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

When Conservative Isn’t

Canadian flag twisting in the wind (cc by laurelrusswurm)

$90,000 “expenses”

Conservative Senator Mike Duffy’s idea of “expenses” is a little different than mine.

Meanwhile, the Senate’s internal economy committee wants to have another look at Duffy’s expense claims amid growing questions about his conduct, including new revelations that he filed claims for Senate business while campaigning for the Conservatives in the last federal election.

“Documents revealed that Duffy billed taxpayers for being on official Senate business while he was campaigning for the Conservatives during the 2011 federal election. If it is confirmed that Duffy attended eight campaign events and submitted Senate expenses, he could be in trouble for double-billing.”

Damning findings removed from Sen. Mike Duffy’s audit report: documents

Wasn’t Prime Minister Stephen Harper going to reform the Senate?

$90,000 “gift”

Nigel Wright Resigns As Stephen Harper’s Chief Of Staff (TWITTER REACTS)

One might think “Harvard-educated Bay Street lawyer and banker” Nigel Wright would know better than to write a cheque to cover Senator Mike Duffy’s exense irregularities.

“It goes without saying that a cheque for such a large amount is far from a customary standard of hospitality, nor a normal expression of courtesy,” [MP Charlie] Angus wrote in a letter.

“The NDP MP also suggested that Duffy, Wright, or both may have breached section 16 of the Parliament of Canada Act which prohibits a senator from receiving compensation for any services rendered.”

Mike Duffy Resignation: Senator Leaves Caucus, Will Sit As Independent

I’m always surprised when government tells us “throwing money at” education and health care are a bad idea. Properly funding social programs makes a lot more sense to me than covering up bad behaviour. I guess we just have different priorities.

$321,000 “expenses”

[Pamela] Wallin, a former journalist who now represents Saskatchewan in the Senate, has claimed about $321,000 in travel expenses since September 2010 that are the subject of an audit by an outside firm.

Senator Pamela Wallin leaves Conservative caucus: Wallin to sit as an Independent during audit process

Consequences?

Senators Duffy and Wallin both claim to have withdrawn from the Conservative caucus, but both plan to stay on as “independent” senators.

Uh huh… Does anyone actually believe they will suddenly stop supporting Conservative interests? Seriously?

$170,000 “expenses”

Another Conservative Government appointee, Daniel Caron, the head of Library and Archives Canada has also resigned over $170,000 of dubious expenses.

Since LAC is the official government repository of Canadian heritage,this one bothers me in particular.

Coping with a $10-million federal budget cut, Caron oversaw major staff downsizing to the department, reduced funding to scores of tiny archives across Canada, halted most acquisitions of historical artifacts, closed the National Archival Development Program, and stopped a system of inter-library loans through which Canadians could access material from its vast collections.

Library head Daniel Caron resigns as $170,000 in expenses found

When you consider that what Mr. Caron considers personal expenses would support as many as ten or fifteen families on social assistance for a year, it calls into question the word “conservative.”

Accountability

The National Post gets this one right: Andrew Coyne: Fear of audits led Conservatives to cover for Mike Duffy

Canada badly needs meaningful electoral reform. If we had a democratic system that actually represented Canadians ~ Proportional Representation ~ our government representatives and appointees could be held accountable.

What a difference that would make.

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Politics and Media

While Ontario was poised to discover whether or not our provincial minority government would be converted to a majority in today’s By-Election, we looked at TV news to see what was happening. It’s been years since I’ve had television; normally I get me news online, but I was away from home so we tried it out.

CTV has a 24 hour news channel. Unfortunately it wasn’t running anything about the election.

Granted, By-elections usually don’t change the status quo, but this was different. One seat could make a huge difference to all Ontarians, by transforming a Liberal minority government into a majority.

With our winner-take-all electoral system, minority government is the closest we get to democracy.

The results of this By-Election will impact on the whole province. So there is a lot of interest in this one. So why wasn’t CTV’s news channel covering it? Maybe they think Canadians aren’t interested in politics?

Okay, there was one little factoid squib floating across the ticker along the bottom periodically, but the news they were covering? Well, they kept cutting back to Jo Biden droning on and on live from the American Democratic Convention. This wasn’t news, this was filler. Although the outcome of the American Democratic convention will likely have impact on the rest of the world, this wasn’t it.

Catherine Fife at Fair Vote WRC Politics in the Patio

And it certainly wasn’t more important than the actual breaking news of an important Ontario election in Ontario.

CBC has a news channel too. Although they had a piece on the Quebec provincial election, they weren’t actually covering the breaking news of the Ontario election results ~ they were cutting back to the American convention as well.

Maybe they think we aren’t interested in Canadian politics?

Poppycock.  Maybe the “news media” isn’t doing the job we think it is.

Breaking out my computer I popped into Twitter and lo and behold, breaking news.

Turns out that the Liberal Candidate Steven Del Duca won in Vaughan as expected.

But the Kitchener-Waterloo riding was a different story: NDP Candidate, Catherine Fife won big.  Here are the unofficial results

The television part of the mainstream media has certainly failed us; it is, at best, entertainment, not news. Real news lives online.

Just as our antiquated 18th Century electoral system fails us every time.

Although I am quite pleased with Catherine Fife’s win in Kitchener-Waterloo, the disturbing reality is that, although she won the vote handily, 59% of Kitchener-Waterloo voters did not vote for her.

In spite of all that, I’m sure she’ll do an excellent job, so I’d like to congratulate Catherine Fife, Kitchener-Waterloo’s new NDP MPP.