What happened to Canada’s #TPP Consultation?

 
The Trudeau government won’t be pressured by the Conservatives or business lobbies into ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal until the public has been consulted about it, says Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland.

She told Conservative trade critic Gerry Ritz in the Commons that the deal is not even open yet for ratification or a signature. A tentative agreement was reached among 12 countries during the Oct. 19 election campaign.

Trade experts have said the TPP deal, which hinges on U.S. congressional approval, likely won’t have to be approved until 2017.

The Liberal government supports free trade, Freeland said. “We understand that on a deal this big, it is essential to consult Canadians and have a full parliamentary debate.” The Liberals have yet to indicate how they plan to consult the public.

Conservatives call on Liberals to move forward on TPP

Did I miss something? Because suddenly Ms. Freeland is saying:

   
Canada Will Sign TPP Deal, But That Doesn’t Mean It’ll Ratify It: Freeland

“It is clear that many feel the TPP presents significant opportunities, while others have concerns,” Freeland wrote.”Many Canadians still have not made up their minds and many more still have questions.”

Um. Well, of course Canadians have concerns and questions… although it’s been in negotiation for 5 years, it’s been in secret– well, at least to most Canadians, citizens and parliamentarians alike. But while we are all scrambling to catch up with this, big industry has been not only involved but fully informed from the start. They’ve had years to study and influence the content of the TPP. But for the rest of Canada? We’ve been given no opportunity at all to influence the thing, it’s thousands of pages long, it’s only just been made public and we have been presented with an ultimatum. Either Canada can sign on to the TPP as is, or we can pass.

While it’s true the new Liberal government did not negotiate this deal, the Conservative Party that did continues to support it, its current leader claims:

  
 “The Trans-Pacific Partnership offers huge opportunities.” —Rona Ambrose

The reality is that it doesn’t actually matter which government negotiated the TPP, if Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Government signs the TPP, it will bear the brunt of the responsibility for the thing. And I have yet to hear any evidence that this agreement will be beneficial to Canada.  Oh, sure, I have no doubt Ms. Ambrose is correct–there will be enormous opportunities to be had by signing the TPP. Just none of them will benefit the public good. If Canada signs the TPP, we will be on the hook.  The government that signs it will effectively abdicating our sovereign power to unaccountable corporate tribunals (via ISDS)

Michael Geist talks about TPP at CIGIBut Michael Geist disagrees.  Michael is the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University, and he’ so concerned about the TPP that he’s been blogging a daily series about its many pitfalls:

The Trouble With the TPP

If that’s not enough, we know Jim Balsillie fears TPP could cost Canada billions and become worst-ever policy move

And then there’s the just released Tufts’ Global Development and Environment Institute report which estimates “the 12 countries involved in the proposed free trade deal would lose a net total of 771,000 jobs in the 10 years after the deal comes into force.

All of this raises many many questions.  All the evidence I’ve seen suggests signing the TPP will cause actual harm to Canada, so I can see no good reason to sign the thing. And besides, didn’t we just vote out the government that got us into this spot?  Didn’t we vote for real change?

And what happened to the promised consultations?

Shameful

There was a tragic attack at today’s Boston Marathon. In Parliament, NDP MP Nathan Cullen relates:
A Canadian flag flies at half mast against a blue sky

I just tabled and tried to pass a motion in the House of Commons comdemning the attacks in Boston. Unfortunately, it didn’t pass.

Here’s the text of my motion: “That this House condemn the attacks perpetrated during the 2013 Boston Marathon and express its deepest sympathies to the victims of this senseless violence and their families.”


Je viens de soumettre une motion dans la Chambre des Communes qui condamne les attaques en Boston et exprime les condoléances des canadiens. Malheureusement, elle a été rejetée.

Voici la texte de mon motion : « Que cette Chambre condamne les attaques perpétrées durant le Marathon 2013 de Boston et exprime sa profonde sympathie envers les victimes de cette violence insensée ainsi que leur famille. »

— Nathan Cullen, April 15, 2013

Because the Conservative Party holds a majority of seats in the House of Commons, it has absolute control of what motions or legislation can be passed.

The Harper Government chose not to pass this motion.

Why?

Why wouldn’t the Harper Government “condemn the attacks perpetrated during the 2013 Boston Marathon?”

How could the Harper Government refuse to “express its deepest sympathies to the victims of this senseless violence and their families?”

Does the Harper government approve of these attacks? 

Expressing concern for our friends, allies, and neighbors in time of tragedy is a human thing to do. It apalls me that the Harper Conservatives would be so petty as to block this merely human motion, a purely non-partisan statement of compassion and support, simply because it was tabled by a member of the Official Opposition.

Such shameful partisan posturing has no place in the House of Commons.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Ding Dong Bill C-32 is Dead

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

Prorogation Vacation

Mape Leaf that says "Oh! Canada"
[Like I need another blog… But the Canadian political situation has been overwhelming my personal blog, in the wind, and since there are more political blog posts fermenting in my brain, the only solution seemed to be to start Oh! Canadato look at

prorogation, electoral reform and Canadian stuff

Because I’ve already written quite a lot on prorogation, I’ve included links to those articles I’ve already published in the wind in the sidebar under “on Prorogation”, including Canada, we have a Prorogue which explains prorogation. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s inappropriate use of prorogation is just a symptom of all the things that are wrong and getting worse in our Canadian manifestation of democracy.

Promotional Image for Political Parody
Proroguing Rock Video

So this is the place to find my further mutterings about Canadian electoral reform. Any other purely Canadian issues I tackle will also end up in this space.

Watch the Video

Canadians need all the smiles we can get, so I recommend that we take our own break to enjoy this excellent prorogation rock video parody on YouTube:
I’m On A Break – (T-Pain parody: I’m on a Boat) 14+ “UNCENSORED” created by concerned Canadians Duane Burnett and Marc Buzzell

Warning:

If strong language bothers you, I suggest the just released censored version below:

One of the reasons I enjoyed this video so much is because it was so well done, in such a short period of time. Hardly a sign of the Canadian penchant for “apathy” that is so often leveled at us by the news media.

partisan?

Personally, I have come to wonder just how much the news media’s vested interest in Liberal and the Conservative advertising dollars is. I’m beginning to wonder if the media can ever be anything but partisan. Since the first-past-the-post status quo favors the Liberal and Conservative parties at the expense of the others, it may well be that the news media would prefer to retain the status quo.

Regardless, I am proud to be a Canadian, and I am happy to see so many people coming together to effect positive change. So give yourself a pat on the back.

democracy

Canada is a democracy, but our system currently frustrates and disillusions a great many Canadians. When your vote is devalued it is very difficult to feel like you have a say. Majority governments routinely ignore Canadian citizens, whatever party is in power. (That would of course be either the Conservative or Liberal party.)

Yet we are constantly told that majority government is good for Canada. I think that is true only for the party forming the majority, not for us citizens.

The reason it is so difficult to achieve Canadian electoral reform is that our archaic “first-past-the-post” electoral system favors the Liberal and Conservative political parties. The easy evidence for this is that these are the only two Canadian political parties who have ever formed a government. So of course it’s no wonder neither of these parties want electoral reform.

Canadians aren’t apathetic, we are simply frustrated with a political system which leaves so many Canadian voices unheard. Up until now, we have not known what to do.

grass roots

Canadian discontent has fed into a growing grass root movement of those of us who are frustrated and unhappy with our electoral system. Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament (CAPP) is a group that started by University of Alberta student Christopher White on the social networking website Facebook. The non-partisan membership grew to (as of this writing) 221,217 members. On this Facebook site, Canadians have posted 22,765 links, and begun 1996 topics of discussion underway in the Discussion groups.

NoProrogue Rally Posters
NoProrogue Rally Posters

One of the most interesting things to me is that the Facebook CAPP group is truly non-partisan. Oh sure, it is composed of people who support the Conservative, Liberal, NPP, Green, Marijuana, Pirate parties, and probably all the others as well… and there is at least one new party wandering the boards trying to drum up business. There are even lots of people like me… people who don’t belong to any party.

The common ground we all share is Canada. People from all across the political spectrum – from die hard supporter of the party of choice to people who have given up casting their vote… we are all there because we all see that there are big problems besetting our system of government.  

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s second inappropriate prorogation of the Canadian parliament in the space of a single calendar year was the flash point. But it only takes five or ten minutes in any of the discussion groups to realize that prorogation is merely the tip of the iceberg.

Outside of Facebook there are still some people trying to contend that there wasn’t anything unusual about Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s inappropriate prorogation. The fact that it wiped out more than half of the laws in the legislature – laws that his own party had put there – says different.

Rally Round The Country

The CAPP group inspired the NoProrogue rallies all over Canada, with a few sprang up from Canadians currently residing in other countries.

I’ve heard people denigrating the turnout. Some say there weren’t enough people at the rallies. They say our rallies don’t count because there were only tens of thousands of us. I know people who did not attend because of health reasons. After all, two hours is a long time to be standing around outside in winter even if it was a mild day in Canada. But how many Canadians were out there doesn’t matter. The point is that there were people out there.
They think that because there weren’t enough of us there our concerns don’t matter.

Yet. They value one individual letter more highly than several form letters. They value a postal mail letter over an email. They value an email form letter above a many signatures on a petition. A big reason for the higher valuations is the increased level of difficulty. I would think that one person standing out in the cold would be valued more highly than ten letters.

They attempt to devaluate the Facebook CAPP membership. One of the common reasons given is that it is “easy” to set up a facebook account with the implication that many Facebook accounts belong to many people. Obviously this argument is made by people who don’t understand what goes into having a Facebook account.

Which is an interesting argument, and a good one for electoral reform. Far too many Canadians don’t have a say under our present system. All too often Canada has majority governments elected with less than a majority of the votes. Under the current system, every Canadian does not have representation in our government. THAT is the problem. And it isn’t right.

Lets look at some other Facebook Groups in favour of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s second early Prorogation:

Canadians FOR the Prorogue!
Description: “Cuz bigwigs need vacations too! Lets take a break from the nauseating debacle that is watching the impotent Conservatives and the laughably bad Liberals go at it. Lets all go Olympic glad handing!”
18 Members

Canadians Against Canadians Who Don’t Really Understand “Prorogue”
Description: “This FB site is a gathering place to mock those half-educated bandwagon jumpers who think it makes them seem politically educated to be against proroguing Parliament this one time, as opposed to every. other. time. Evidently, they don’t understand why Parliament gets prorogued. But they are against it. ‘Cause it’s bad.
This group attacks a specific group of people and will not be tolerated. ”
6 Members

Prorogue is a good thing
Description: “ ”
6 Members

Canadians FOR Proroguing Parliament
Description: “On December 30th, 2009, for the second time in as many years, Stephen Harper has asked the Governor General to prorogue parliament. Like last time, he will certainly get what he’s asking for, doing something that is routine and has happened 105 times in the past, including four times under the Liberal Prime Minister Chrétien.

If you do the math that works out to about every one in 1.3 years. The majority of the Canadian people understand that this is parliamentary procedure, and we support this measure.

What can we do? Tell your Mp you think it’s a fantastic idea. Maybe even one that we should have every single year. ”
72 Members

Canadians FOR Proroguing Parliament
Description: “There is a huge following of Canadians against proroguing parliament because of some “they are vacationing on our tax dollars” principle.

I say we get parliament to EXTEND their prorogue and set up a system where they only meet 2 months out of the year and for emergency situations. ”
46 Members

Canadian Citizens FOR Prorogueing Parliment untill January 2009
Description: “If PM Harper prorogue’s Parliment untill after the budget scheduled for January 27th, it would avoid any need for a coalition governement or a non confidence vote scheduled for Monday Dec 8. Harper would then have time to formulate a stimulus package aimed at providing relief to industries caught up in the current financial crisis and provide other funding to help stimulate the economy. Canadian’s voted just a few weeks ago and have no desire to hit the polls again. Shame on Dion, Layton and Duceppe for playing politics with our country at a very serious time that calls for focus and action, not politics and coalitions. ”
13 Members

Most of these groups seem to be jokes. But the question remains, if it is so easy to fake a couple hundred thousand member Facebook group, why isn’t there one in favor of Harper’s prorogation?

the NoProrogue rally in Waterloo
the NoProrogue rally in Waterloo

I’ve heard people saying that the news media boosted the estimates of attendees. I can tell you that that the estimates given by the media for the Waterloo Rally attendance were decidedly low. Something else that no one even considers is crowd turnover. It probably wouldn’t happen at other times of the year or in warmer climes, but a good number of older folks packed up and left the rally (around the time that the local TV reporter did). But the crowd didn’t shrink particularly, as groups of younger protesters were trickling in at around the time the older ones were leaving. That may also be peculiar to the Waterloo rally, since they had to push back the Rally time to accommodate a skating show that would have been taking place at the same time. So perhaps a lot of those folks hadn’t been aware that the rally time had moved. Whatever, there were far more than 500 attendees; the photographs I took tell me there were something between between 800 and 1,200 attendees.

the NoProrogue rally in Guelph
the NoProrogue rally in Guelph

I’m not sure about Guelph because I arrived late so I missed the outdoor part of the Rally. The crowd was already on the march away from the Rally en route to the indoor panel discussion in a local church. I started taking pictures as the marchers approached me.

But I could see that some of the people from the outdoor rally did not join the march. By the same token, I don’t know if all of the folks inside the church for the panel discussion attended the rally, or just showed up for the warm parts.

Does it really matter? What both the Facebook page and the NoProrogue Rallies clearly tell us is that there are a lot of Canadians unhappy with our political situation.

Have you ever noticed that Canadians are always accused of electoral apathy by the media, but then when Canadians start throwing no-prorogation rallies and suddenly we’re quaint but still ineffectual. Macleans ran an online story The Commons: ‘I shouldn’t have to be here’ which was yet another mainstream media stories that essentially tells us that when Canadians aren’t being ineffective through apathy, we’re being ineffective but cute when we engage in grassroots protest.

Meanwhile, back at the CBC online, the story Thousands protest Parliament’s suspension has 3206 comments… If you’ve ever fought your way through CBC comments, with only 5 to a page it would take far longer than a No-Prorogation Rally to read your way through them all. I wouldn’t mind so much except I have to sleep sometime.

this explains a lot

In this excellent article from the Times Colonist: Our political system isn’t flawed, it’s broken Ian Cameron explains clearly just what the problem is. Chiefly, the system doesn’t work the way we think it does.

If that is truly the case, we really need to do something about that. It is certainly something to think about.

whose country is it anyway?

This P.A. Herald story Protest about prorogue planned for Prince Albert is about Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback who brings obliviousness to a new low. This is a man spending some of his Prorogation Vacation in California. I think it would be a good idea for all Canadians to let Randy Hoback know just how we feel about this. Here is his contact information:

137-15th Street East (Main Office)
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
S6V 1G1
(Tel) 306.953.8622.
(Fax) 306.953.8625
(TF) 1.800.939.0940
hobacr1@parl.gc.ca
http://www.randyhobackmp.ca/
Canadian Flag
Ottawa
Room 910
Justice Building
House of Commons
K1A 0A6
(Tel) 613.995.3295
(Fax) 613.995.6819
Hoback.R@parl.gc.ca

I mean really, it’s like this guy thinks he’s Tony Clement or something.



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