laurel l. russwurm's political musings

Posts Tagged ‘Conservative

Special Committee on electoral reform

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The Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister of Democratic InstitutionsDuring the 2015 Federal Election, the Liberal Party promised to convene an All Party Committee to consider electoral reform so that 2015 would be our last election using First Past The Post.

Minister Monsef and House Leader LeBlanc are scheduled to Make an Announcement on Electoral Reform at 9:00am today ~ Wednesday, May 11, 2016

From the Order Paper we learn the Canadian Government has announced the electoral reform committee:

Government Business

No. 5
— May 10, 2016
— The Minister of Democratic Institutions —
That a Special Committee on electoral reform be appointed to identify and conduct a study of viable alternate voting systems, such as preferential ballots and proportional representation, to replace the first-past-the-post system, as well as to examine mandatory voting and online voting, and to assess the extent to which the options identified could advance the following principles for electoral reform:

(a) Effectiveness and legitimacy: that the proposed measure would increase public confidence among Canadians that their democratic will, as expressed by their votes, will be fairly translated and that the proposed measure reduces distortion and strengthens the link between voter intention and the election of representatives;

(b) Engagement: that the proposed measure would encourage voting and participation in the democratic process, foster greater civility and collaboration in politics, enhance social cohesion and offer opportunities for inclusion of underrepresented groups in the political process;

(c) Accessibility and inclusiveness: that the proposed measure would avoid undue complexity in the voting process, while respecting the other principles, and that it would support access by all eligible voters regardless of physical or social condition;

(d) Integrity: that the proposed measure can be implemented while safeguarding public trust in the election process, by ensuring reliable and verifiable results obtained through an effective and objective process that is secure and preserves vote secrecy for individual Canadians;

(e) Local representation: that the proposed measure would ensure accountability and recognize the value that Canadians attach to community, to Members of Parliament understanding local conditions and advancing local needs at the national level, and to having access to Members of Parliament to facilitate resolution of their concerns and participation in the democratic process;

that the Committee be directed to issue an invitation to each Member of Parliament to conduct a town hall in their respective constituencies and provide the Committee with a written report of the input from their constituents to be filed with the Clerk of the Committee no later than October 1, 2016;

that the Committee be directed to take into account the applicable constitutional, legal and implementation parameters in the development of its recommendations; accordingly, the Committee should seek out expert testimony on these matters;

that the Committee be directed to consult broadly with relevant experts and organizations, take into consideration consultations that have been undertaken on the issue, examine relevant research studies and literature, and review models being used or developed in other jurisdictions;

that the Committee be directed to develop its consultation agenda, working methods, and recommendations on electoral reform with the goal of strengthening the inclusion of all Canadians in our diverse society, including women, Indigenous Peoples, youth, seniors, Canadians with disabilities, new Canadians and residents of rural and remote communities;

that the Committee be directed to conduct a national engagement process that includes a comprehensive and inclusive consultation with Canadians through written submissions and online engagement tools;

that the Committee be composed of ten (10) members of which six (6) shall be government members, three (3) shall be from the Official Opposition, and one (1) shall be from the New Democratic Party; and that one (1) member from the Bloc Québécois, and the Member for Saanich-Gulf Islands also be members of the Committee but without the right to vote or move any motion;

that changes in the membership of the Committee be effective immediately after notification by the Whip has been filed with the Clerk of the House;

that membership substitutions be permitted, if required, in the manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2);

that, with the exception of the Member for Saanich-Gulf Islands, all other members shall be named by their respective Whip by depositing with the Clerk of the House the list of their members to serve on the Committee no later than ten (10) sitting days following the adoption of this motion;

that the Committee be chaired by a member of the government party; that, in addition to the Chair, there be one (1) Vice-Chair from the Official Opposition and one (1) Vice-Chair from the New Democratic Party, and that, notwithstanding Standing Order 106(3), all candidates for the position of Chair or Vice-Chair from the Official Opposition shall be elected by secret ballot, and that each candidate be permitted to address the Committee for not more than three (3) minutes;

that the quorum of the Committee be as provided for in Standing Order 118, provided that at least four members are present and provided that one (1) member from the government party and one (1) member from an opposition party are present;

that the Committee be granted all of the powers of a standing committee, as provided in the Standing Orders, as well as the power to travel, accompanied by the necessary staff, inside and outside of Canada;

that the Committee have the power to authorize video and audio broadcasting of any or all of its proceedings; and

that the Committee present its final report no later than December 1, 2016.

Notice Paper | No. 53 | Wednesday, May 11, 2016 |2:00 p.m.

Of concern to me is the composition of the 10 members of the Committee:

  • 6 Liberals
  • 3 Conservatives
  • 1 NDP
  • 1 Bloc
  • 1 Green

Which is 12 seats on the committee of ten… which seems confusing until you read the part that says the Bloc and Green MPs are unequal members of the Committee,


…without the right to vote or move any motion;”

So it seems that the promised “all party committee” is more optical illusion than a reflection of reality.

This does not bode well.

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Image Credit:

“The Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister of Democratic Institutions” by Laurel Russwurm is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

Ratifying FIPPA = Abdication of Responsibility

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The Canada-China Trade Deal

To get a deeper understanding of why ratification of the Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the People’s Republic of China for the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments [China-Canada Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA)]  is such a bad deal for Canada, I recommend Christopher Majka’s series:


Open letter to Stephen Harper: Fourteen reasons the Canada-China #FIPA needs a full public review
This trade treaty is often called the “Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement” (FIPA)

Canadian Flag (cc by laurelrusswurm)

Federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May suggested that:

All Liberal and Conservative MP’s should ask their party the following questions:

    1. Why does this treaty lock Canada in for 31 years, when NAFTA allows 6 month notice to exit, and even the investment treaty with Benin, tabled in the House after the China Treaty, allows exit in 16 years?
    2. Why does the China treaty give the State Owned Enterprises from China a six month window for diplomatic wrangling, within which Canadian governments and businesses can lose in behind-closed-doors pressure by China on the Canadian government? No other investment treaty includes a 6-month nation to nation diplomatic process.
    3. Why is this the first treaty in years that allows the entire arbitration process to remain secret, allowing Canada only the option of making it public?
    4. Why has Australia, with a 10-fold larger volume of two-way trade with China than Canada, refused to enter into investor-state agreements, including refusing to negotiate one with China. Why has Canada not conducted a study, as Australia did, to determine whether these treaties do more economic harm than good?

“Unless every Member of Parliament can get satisfactory responses to these questions, any vote in support of this treaty will be an abdication of our responsibility as Canadians to ensure we are not giving the Peoples’ Republic of China the right to challenge our laws – whether municipal, provincial or federal, or court judgments – claiming billions even for measures taken with no intent or evidence of trade discrimination,” said Ms. May.

Happy Earth Day: House to vote on Canada China Investment Treaty Today

Gerry James adds:
5. Why can we as a nation leave nation to nation dispute settlement mechanism to a three person arbitration board for final judgments of such magnitude and gravity. While I understand arbitrators can effectively resolve many international commercial differences, to leave the fate of nation to nation trade conflicts under this pact to a panel of 3 arbitrators with binding decisions is willful recklessness.

Canadian Flag surrounded by cables


Stopping a Federal Government with a majority from doing exactly as it wants is problematic. Absent the real democracy Canada might have with a proportional electoral system, public opinion is one of the few checks we have on our government. Sometimes the most powerful dictator can be swayed from pursuing an ill advised path if faced with unified public opinion.

The various opposition parties have been fighting FIPA in their various ways all along, but at the end of the day, the Liberal Party chose not to stand with the NDP in voting against FIPA ratification. Instead, the Liberal Party chose to support FIPA.

The volume of partisan blaming online is deafening. NDP blame Liberals for not supporting their scrap FIPA motion, while Liberals argue that the NDP behaved just as badly as Liberals by refusing to support the Liberal motion to amend FIPA. Are the two motions equal? The NDP answers that its motion could have stood a chance had all opposition united behind it, but that the LPC motion merely repeated an NDP motion previously quashed by the government.

I sumbit that there is merit to the NDP side.  If the LPC had voted with the NDP, there was a chance some CPC backbenchers would have voted for the NDP motion because it was so clearly in the public good. Had that happend, a majority vote against ratification would have killed the treaty. But there is no reason to expect any CPC MP will commit pointless party suicide by voting against party dictates without a real chance of accomplishing something — in this case protection of the public good.

Whether you buy into either partisan tale or none, the fact remains that partisan special interests trumped the public good. The inability of the opposition parties to work together is not good for Canada.

Trade deals can be good or bad, but it seems pretty clear that this incarnation of FIPA will be very good for China, and very bad for Canada – for am unprecedented 31 years.

The only thing now standing between Canada and the FIPA steamroller is that the Hupacasath First Nation Filed Notice of Application Against Canada – China FIPPA

Since our government has let us down, the only thing the rest of Canada can do is support the Hupacasath First Nation in standing up for Canada’s future.  Leadnow is raising donations to help with the legal bills.  If you can, please Donate to the First Nations legal challenge that could stop FIPA in its tracks

FIPA: The Greatest Threat to Canada’s Future

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Post Script:

If the Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the People’s Republic of China for the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments (FIPPA) is ratified, Canada will be stuck with it for more than three decades. That is an awfully long time for an entire nation to suffer the consequences of an ill advised path that was negotiated in secret.

It may be too late for us to do anything that will work, but at this point, it is too important to let go. Anything is worth a try if there is any chance at all we can salvage our children’s future. The government has not yet ratified the Canada-Chinese Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the People’s Republic of China for the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments (FIPPA).

Canadians must keep on letting them know we are not willing to accept this travesty.

Leadnow and SumOfUs have already delivered their digital petitions. If you have not yet signed any petition, here are the three I know of:

The Council For Canadians Petition
NDP petition
Green Party Paper Petition

Other things we can do:

Leadnow’s call-your MP form Although the vote has already transpired, you can continue to call your MP, and use the talking points on this Leadnow page. When speaking directly to your MP, an excellent strategy is to remain calm and firm, and repreat what you want to say until you get verbal acknowledgement that the person on the phone has heard you. They are most likely to respond with party “talking points” that don’t actually answer your questions or concerns. Stay focussed on your points… have notes written down in front of you if it will help. Under our antiquated and inequitable system, most MPs have very little more power than we do. But if they continue to receive calls telling them that their constituents are not willing accept this, it may encourage thekm to do the right thing.

Note: The Green Party digital petition is no longer online, but we can still download and sign – and get our community to sign – paper petitions we can then mail (postage free) to Ms. May and/or our own MPs, of whatever flavour.

The Green Party also makes available online forms to:
Green Party Write-A-Letter to your MP
email your friends
Green Party Write-A-Letter Form

Finally, you may want to read or re-read Elizabeth May’s article:

The threat to Canada’s sovereignty — what we are giving to China

Trade with China should not mean handing over the keys to Canada.

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Doesn’t the the Harper Government believe in Science?

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Sunrise over Lake Ontario, one of the 5 Great Lakes, the largest concentration of freshwater in the world

People around the world are flabbergasted by the Canadian Government’s emphatic rejection of a parliamentary motion calling for “evidence-based policy-making” on March 20th this year.

Vote No. 631
41st Parliament, 1st Session
Sitting No. 225 – Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sponsor: Mr. Stewart (Burnaby—Douglas)

“That, in the opinion of the House: (a) public science, basic research and the free and open exchange of scientific information are essential to evidence-based policy-making; (b) federal government scientists must be enabled to discuss openly their findings with their colleagues and the public; and (c) the federal government should maintain support for its basic scientific capacity across Canada, including immediately extending funding, until a new operator is found, to the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area Research Facility to pursue its unique research program.”

Sitting No. 225 – Wednesday, March 20, 2013

All 137 NDP, Liberal, Bloc Québécois, Green and the one Independent MPs voted in favour of the motion.
All 156 Conservative and the one Conservative Independent MP Voted Against it.

Science impacts on everyone, regardless of party affiliation. But facts are immutable; they don’t change based on party lines. Facts aren’t opinions; they are still true even if we don’t choose to believe in them.

Policy not based on evidence is very likely to be against the public interest.

Q: Why would the Conservative party of Canada unanimously vote against “evidence-based policy-making”?

A: Because they can.

The Conservative party has won 100% of the power with 24.3% of eligible Canadian votes.

Under Canada’s winner-take-all First Past The Post electoral system, 39% of those Canadians who voted have elected a majority Conservative Government, effectively a dictatorship with a time limit.

Our electoral system grants a Majority Government absolute power to legally pass or veto any law it wants. Evidence need not enter into it.

Maybe I missed something.

Maybe there is something bad buried in the text of the motion. Lets look at it bit by bit.

(a) public science, basic research and the free and open exchange of scientific information are essential to evidence-based policy-making;

This seems pretty straight forward. The Harper Conservatives don’t want to be tied to evidence-based policy making. Which is like saying the news needn’t be based on facts. Oh, wait…

(b)  If federal government scientists must be enabled to discuss openly their findings with their colleagues and the public; and…

What possible reason could there to prevent federal government scientists from discussing their findings? Sharing information with other scientists is how innovation and scientific advancements are achieved. The public foots the bill for such research, why shouldn’t the public have the right to know?

Does our government want the right to prevent scientists from telling us our water supply has been compromised by

Have federal employees been stripped of their right to free speech?

Will this put our federal scientists at personal risk of becoming whistle blowers if they decide to inform the public of public hazards? Don’t federal employees, even scientists — enjoy the fundamental protections guaranteed under The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

(c)  the federal government should maintain support for its basic scientific capacity across Canada, including immediately extending funding, until a new operator is found, to the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area Research Facility to pursue its unique research program.

Maybe it’s just about this. Maybe they just don’t want to spend the money.

The Experimental Lakes Area Research Facility only cost at most $2 million a year. The Canadian Government spent more money ~ $28 million ~ advertising the anniversary of the War of 1812 to the mystification of all of Canada.

Our government didn’t just close the Experimental Lakes Area Research Facility, but they are actively preventing fully funded experiments from finishing up. This is throwing away research that has already been done and paid for with taxpayer dollars.

Why would the Harper Conservatives do this?

Is science or free speech a left/right thing?

It shouldn’t be.

Is it a religious thing?

The Harper Conservatives have made no secret they are predominantly a conservative Christian Party. How many people say their belief in religion is grounded in the wonders of the natural world. Shouldn’t a Christian Party be working to protect the environment that God gave mankind stewardship over?

Perhaps they think if they don’t know the facts, if the environment should be damaged beyond repair, perhaps they’re hoping for plausible deniability when they meet their maker.

It’s pretty basic: if they don’t collect the facts, there will be no evidence to prevent policy based on guesswork and beliefs. Not collecting scientific data about the environment makes it easier to pass “business friendly” laws harmful to the environment.

If the government allows the collection of facts that give scientists ammunition to say we’re damaging the environment beyond repair, the public may get upset about government policy… they might not be able to do what they want.  And the people making policy decisions in the Harper Government reportedly don’t believe in climate change.

from sea to sea

We all need to breathe the air, drink the water, walk on the land. Why would sane people wilfully, deliberately, damage our environment beyond repair? That I can’t answer.

Unless they just don’t believe in it.

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Must Read:
Franke James pictorial essay: What is Harper Afraid Of? and sign her petition.

Please ask the Government of Canada to reverse its decision to terminate Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area by signing the Public Petition to Save ELA

Get informed about electoral reform; find your local Fair Vote Canada chapter and sign the Declaration of Voter’s Rights. We need to tell all our elected officials, and all our political parties, that Canada needs electoral reform to Proportional Representation NOW.

What’s Wrong With Strategic Voting

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Our electoral process is badly broken. Some Canadian electoral ridings can be “won” with as little as 29% of the vote.

Every vote is not equal.  Under our current system, some votes count more than others, and others not at all.

Which means that only a small proportion of Canadians are represented by the candidates who are elected to Parliament.   Because of this, many Canadians feel disenfranchised and have stopped voting altogether.

true or false

We are told that majority government is good for Canada.

letter FBut the truth is that majority government is a very bad thing for everyone except the party holding the majority.  And of course, all of their friends. (You know, the ones who get all those lovely patronage plums.)

Under our current system, without electoral reform, the only time our government is at all accountable is during a minority government.   So although a majority government is easier for the politicians, minority government is actually better for Canadians.

We are told that our only real choices are Conservative or Liberal.
They have experience.
The polls say they have [insert latest poll figure here] support.
They are more fiscally responsible.

trueIn this campaign, the Liberals and Conservatives spent most of their time and money attacking one another on the past record. [experience?] Televised attack ads cost a lot of money, so the requests for donations have seemed unending. [fiscally responsible?]

The other parties can’t get a majority because of [insert latest poll figure here] or they can’t form a government because they only have [insert latest poll figure here] support.

In this election, there are actually four political parties who could have enough candidates elected to form a Canada wide majority government. Polls are at best an educated guess.   At worst, a poll is marketing propaganda.

A weather forecast is more accurate.

Mumbles about the New Democratic Party.

trueThe NDP are reputed to have “socialist” leanings. Of course, without these socialists Canada wouldn’t have social programs. What’s wrong with social programs? Aren’t they a good thing?

Isn’t it ironic that Michael Ignatieff is offering to save Canadian Health Care when the reason our prized Universal Health Care System is in crisis is thanks to massive cuts to Federal transfer payments made by a previous Liberal government? Fiscal responsibility seems to mean providing corporate welfare (bail-outs) at the expense of human needs.

Then there is misinformation about the Green Party.


The Green Party is only concerned with the environment – they have only a one plank platform.   That was true when they started, but has not been the case for years.

Today’s Green Party of Canada has a well rounded platform, with a better grasp of technology issues than most of our former Conservative government. The Green Party’s exclusion from the televised leadership debates also feeds into the erroneous assumption that the Green Party could not form a government.  Unlike the Bloc Québécois the  Green Party is running enough candidates across Canada to be able to form a government.

they tell us to vote strategically

For a long time now, with every election we hear renewed calls for strategic voting.
When I first heard of it it didn’t sound so bad; after all, my vote didn’t count for much.
The biggest part of the problem, the thing that prompts even smart people to consider strategic voting is that around a third of the votes can result in a majority government.

Fairvote Canada logo

The problem is that it doesn’t solve the problem, We need to fix the system. Anyone even thinking about strategic voting should find their local Fairvote Canada chapter and get involved.

Because strategic voting does not solve the problem.

It might seem to be a “work-around” but in practice it has entrenched the Conservative/Liberal two-step.

don’t vote “strategically”

The strategy is to convince us to vote for candidates we don’t want elected.

We are told that if Harper were elected Prime Minister in this election he will do all sorts of dreadful things.

A:  But anyone elected Prime Minister might do dreadful things. We KNOW previous Liberal and Conservative governments have done dreadful things.

Opinion polls say that [insert name of the political party you support here] can’t possibly win, it is important to vote for [insert name of the political party the ‘strategic voting advocate’ supports] instead so that ‘we’ can defeat Harper.

A: Opinion polls can be manipulated, their accuracy is speculative at best. If they were accurate, we wouldn’t need to bother with elections. There are different voters on the rolls this time. Many Canadians will be voting for the first time.

Last time was last time. We have no idea who will win the election because it has not yet been held.  No one has been elected ∗ yet ∗

all Canadian votes should be equal but they are not…

… which makes my devalued vote even more important.  If I don’t vote, my voice would count even less than it does now.

If I don’t vote for the party I support, the party I support won’t know that I support them.

If I don’t vote for the good person I think will best represent me in parliament, that person may not feel supported enough to continue in public service.  That candidate may decide not to run again.

Strategic voting doesn’t just cast your vote for a candidate you don’t support, but against the candidate you do.  If I vote for a candidate I don’t support, I deserve what I get.

This is a new day. A new election day.

Don’t vote strategically – especially if there is a candidate you believe in.

If we don’t start voting for the candidates we believe in, we will never get the government we want.

The only Canadian political parties opposed to electoral reform are the Conservative and Liberal parties. Canada has other choices.

Visit the Elections Canada site to see what choices are available in your riding.

P.S. Just found this great article: The perils of strategic voting

Serving the Public…?

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technical ineptitude

Minister Moore's Twitter Picture

Reading the response Russell McOrmond received from MP James Moore I am appalled.   Canada’s current Heritage Minister, James Moore, has represented himself as a technologically astute legislator.   This is important because the Heritage Ministry holds sway over both the CRTC and matters of copyright and the Internet.   Unfortunately, no one has explained to him that the ability to “tweet” on Twitter is not the same thing as possessing technical expertise.

Dubbed “the Ipod Minister,” Moore was one of the ‘forces’ behind last year’s Copyright Consultation and this year’s Digital Economy Consultation.   Still, Minister Moore’s technical savvy seems limited to purchasing and promoting Apple products; this letter incident highlights Moore’s woeful lack of technical expertise, which ought to make him a poor choice to occupy a position of power over Canada’s digital economy or copyright reform.

Canadians deserve to have legislators who at least understand the issues.


But there is a wider concern.   Every time we have an election the main stream media takes the populace to task for lack of participation.   Only a fraction of eligible voters turn out for any given election at any level of government.   Yet no one ever seems to mention the many ways Canadians are disenfranchised before we even consider going to the polling station.

writing letters to our Government

Most of us put real effort into the letters we write to our MPs.   Many federal issues go beyond the scope of our individual MP, and depending on the issue it may be necessary to correspond with all the members on a committee, or the Minister in charge of the issue or even the Prime Minister.   Sometimes it might even be best to send a message to every Member of Parliament.

To facilitate this constituent—-representative contact Canada Post delivers mail from citizens for any or all of the above mentioned correspondence to our representatives in Ottawa free of charge.   Naturally Canada Post employees don’t perform this service out of the goodness of their hearts, this democratic service is paid for by the government.   Presumably because they want to hear from their constituents.   So they can serve us better.

I understand why we need to write letters to our representatives in government.   If we don’t tell them our views about about issues important to us, our concerns will not be considered, and laws may well be passed that are contrary to our interests.   Laws contrary to the public good.

So why don’t the responses we get back from our elected representatives actually answer any of our concerns or questions?

form letters

I’ve sent a few in the past year or so, and the responses take a very very long time in coming.   Do they think that if they take months to reply we will have forgotten what we wrote?   I guess they don’t realize most of us keep copies of the letters we send.   At a time when most of our letters are written on computers and copying is easy.

Yet the supposed “response” they give us doesn’t indicate anyone has actually read anything we’ve written beyond our name and address.   Invariably a form letter, the responses they send seem more like press releases.   Many people seem to accept this as the way our government conducts its business.

Perrin Beatty circa 1970's

But I don’t.

Before I was even old enough to vote I wrote a couple letters to my representative at the time, Conservative MP Perrin Beatty.   I got a written response to one letter and a personal phone call from the man himself for the other.   That is the way it is supposed to work.

This year, when I wrote a letter to my current (Conservative) MP to protest the government’s premature prorogation, the envelope I received was addressed to me but the letter inside was not.   It doesn’t get much clearer than that.

When we send our elected representatives to Ottawa they get access to administrative staff paid for out of the public coffers.   People to deal with scheduling, email, letters from constituents.   Every letter we send to anyone in out parliament should be read and answered properly.

Perhaps they think sending a response like this gives the appearance of responding.

It doesn’t.

who pays for this?

Maple Leaf that says "Oh! Canada"
As a citizen, it makes me angry that we taxpayers foot the bill for these unresponsive “responses”.

Every response that isn’t a real response is a waste of money.

But the much higher price we pay is in the certain knowledge that our elected representatives can’t be bothered to listen to us let alone reply.

This is a clear message to Canadians that our voices as citizens are not merely not being heard, they are being ignored.   It is certainly a disincentive to citizen participation in the democratic process.   And I think this is very possibly one of the most blatant causes of the legendary Canadian “voter apathy”.   Why bother: they don’t listen. The first step in disenfranchising citizens.

This is not acceptable in a democratic nation.

Canada’s ‘public servants” may be able to say the word “democracy” but some of them don’t seem to understand what it means.