Canada needs an Independent Senate to Protect the Public Good

Canadian FlagSo far, I have received one stalling response to my email from a Conservative Senator’s office which said:

Your correspondence will be brought to the Senator’s attention as soon as possible.”

And I have received one very nice response from one Liberal Senator. It touched on many of my concerns, but it is clear that my communication failed to make my point clear.   I wrote this response:

Dear Senator:

I am sorry you have mistaken the content of my message. I do not support “the sensible position of the Liberal senators” but rather an independent and autonomous Canadian Senate — a Senate in which Senators rise above party lines to provide sober second thought for the Public Good.

Just as you say, your role as a senator is to serve all Canadians.

But “all Canadians” encompasses the entire spectrum of citizens, from those Canadians who support the Pirate Party of Canada all the way to those Canadians who support the Conservative Party of Canada, everyone in between, and even people who support no party at all.

Although this may surprise you, Liberal Party of Canada policies do not support the interests of all Canadians, they support the interests of the Liberal of Party of Canada. This has been demonstrated very clearly by the current LPC Leader’s staunch opposition to meaningful electoral reform to Proportional Representation.

As you say, all Canadians are supposed to enjoy the same rights and protections guaranteed under our constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, the reality is that we do not. The Current Government, as well as many previous Governments, have amply demonstrated all of us will in fact not enjoy these rights and protections until we all have representation in Government.

This will not happen until all of our votes count.

The dysfunctional political system in which you labor cannot be laid solely at the feet of the CPC. Within my own lifetime Liberal Prime Ministers Trudeau and Chrétien have laid the foundations of PMO centralization of power. And of course the game of “Senate stacking” has been played equally by LPC and CPC Prime Ministers.

I myself do not support any political party at all, because every Party puts Party interests before Canadian interests. While I understand the justification of the need for political parties in the Canadian House of Commons, the Senate is expected to rise above partisanship for the good of all.

I believe that an autonomous upper house is a vital component for the security of our democracy.  A growing number of Canadians disagree with me; they can see no solution to the seemingly unending venality of the Senate.  Many see the Senate as a superfluous echo of the House of Commons, which is why they advocate abolishing the Senate and replacing it by adding a few new seats to the HoC. That both Mr. Mulcair and Mr. Harper share the goal of Senate deprecation should make it abundantly clear to all Senators that the Upper House must begin doing what it was constituted to do if it is to survive.

All Senators must cast off Party shackles that prevent them from doing what is right. If the Senate is to have any hope of public support, it must first work for the public good.

I hope this helps.

Regards,
Ms. Laurel L. Russwurm

The government’s motion to suspend Senator Duffy, Senator Brazeau and Senator Wallin will be put forward on Monday, November 4th, 2013.

Incredibly, the government Senators intend to limit debate to a mere six hours.

Today Senators have been talking about the flood of emails they have been receiving. Apparently I’m not the only citizen plagued with serious concerns about our Senators being coerced to vote as their Party orders them to.

Has our Senate lost the ability to engage in sober second thought? Please let them know how you feel.

email the Senators

raynell.andreychuk@sen.parl.gc.ca,

salma.ataullahjan@sen.parl.gc.ca,

george.baker@sen.parl.gc.ca,

denise.batters@sen.parl.gc.ca,

diane.bellemare@sen.parl.gc.ca,

lynn.beyak@sen.parl.gc.ca,

doug.black@sen.parl.gc.ca,

boisvp@sen.parl.gc.ca,

david.braley@sen.parl.gc.ca,

patrick.brazeau@sen.parl.gc.ca,

joanne.buth@sen.parl.gc.ca,

catherine.callbeck@sen.parl.gc.ca,

larry.campbell@sen.parl.gc.ca,

claude.carignan@sen.parl.gc.ca,

andree.champagne@sen.parl.gc.ca,

maria.chaput@sen.parl.gc.ca,

gerald.comeau@sen.parl.gc.ca,

anne.cools@sen.parl.gc.ca,

jane.cordy@sen.parl.gc.ca,

jim.cowan@sen.parl.gc.ca,

jean-guy.dagenais@sen.parl.gc.ca,

romeo.dallaire@sen.parl.gc.ca,

dennis.dawson@sen.parl.gc.ca,

joseph.day@sen.parl.gc.ca,

line.tessier@sen.parl.gc.c,

Percy.Downe@sen.parl.gc.ca,

norman.doyle@sen.parl.gc.ca,

michael.duffy@sen.parl.gc.ca,

lillian.dyck@sen.parl.gc.ca,

nicole.eaton@sen.parl.gc.ca,

art.eggleton@sen.parl.gc.ca,

tobias.enverga@sen.parl.gc.ca,

suzanne.fortin-duplessis@sen.parl.gc.ca,

joan.fraser@sen.parl.gc.ca,

linda.frum@sen.parl.gc.ca,

george.furey@sen.parl.gc.ca,

stephen.greene@sen.parl.gc.ca,

celine.hervieux-payette@sen.parl.gc.ca,

diane.lacombe@sen.parl.gc.ca,

elizabeth.hubley@sen.parl.gc.ca,

mjaffer@sen.parl.gc.ca,

janis.johnson@sen.parl.gc.ca,

serge.joyal@sen.parl.gc.ca,

colin.kenny@sen.parl.gc.ca,

noel.kinsella@sen.parl.gc.ca,

daniel.lang@sen.parl.gc.ca,

marjory.lebreton@sen.parl.gc.ca,

carole.smith@sen.parl.gc.ca,

ghislain.maltais@sen.parl.gc.ca,

fabian.manning@sen.parl.gc.ca,

elizabeth.marshall@sen.parl.gc.ca,

martin@sen.parl.gc.ca,

paul.massicotte@sen.parl.gc.ca,

elaine.mccoy@sen.parl.gc.ca,

thomasjohnson.mcinnis@sen.parl.gc.ca,

paul.mcintyre@sen.parl.gc.ca,

terry.mercer@sen.parl.gc.ca,

pana.merchant@sen.parl.gc.ca,

don.meredith@sen.parl.gc.ca,

grant.mitchell@sen.parl.gc.ca,

percy.mockler@sen.parl.gc.ca,

wp.moore@sen.parl.gc.ca,

jim.munson@sen.parl.gc.ca,

nancy.ruth@sen.parl.gc.ca,

richard.neufeld@sen.parl.gc.ca,

thanhhai.ngo@sen.parl.gc.ca,

pierreclaude.nolin@sen.parl.gc.ca,

kelvin.ogilvie@sen.parl.gc.ca,

victoria.deng@sen.parl.gc.ca,

olived@sen.parl.gc.ca,

dennis.patterson@sen.parl.gc.ca,

don.plett@sen.parl.gc.ca,

rosemay.poirier@sen.parl.gc.ca,

nancy.raine@sen.parl.gc.ca,

pierrette.ringuette@sen.parl.gc.ca,

michel.rivard@sen.parl.gc.ca,

jc.rivest@sen.parl.gc.ca,

bob.runciman@sen.parl.gc.ca,

kfl@sen.parl.gc.ca,

judith.seidman@sen.parl.gc.ca,

asha.seth@sen.parl.gc.ca,

asha.seth@sen.parl.gc.ca,

david.smith@sen.parl.gc.ca,

larry.smith@sen.parl.gc.ca,

carolyn.stewartolsen@sen.parl.gc.ca,

scott.tannas@sen.parl.gc.ca,

claudette.tardif@sen.parl.gc.ca,

david.tkachuk@sen.parl.gc.ca,

betty.unger@sen.parl.gc.ca,

josee.verner@sen.parl.gc.ca,

john.wallace@sen.parl.gc.ca,

pamela.wallin@sen.parl.gc.ca,

charlie.watt@sen.parl.gc.ca,

claudine.courtois@sen.parl.gc.ca,

senatorwhite@sen.parl.gc.ca

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leavesAnd now to my hiatus. I hope you all will Keep an eye on the country for me during November.


Doesn’t the the Harper Government believe in Science?

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.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

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.

Kitchener-Waterloo By-Election Candidates

Currently two Ontario electoral ridings are in the grip of By-Elections. In the riding of Vaughan everyone seems to assume the Liberal candidate will be a shoe-in. Although predictions are made in every election, we wouldn’t need to bother with the expense of elections if any poll or prediction’s outcome was guaranteed.

No such assumption has been made in Elizabeth Witmer’s Kitchener-Waterloo riding, where Witmer has reigned under Progressive-Conservative colours for decades. The only reason her staunch conservative seat is up for grabs is because she’s resigned to accept a plum job offered by Premier McGuinty. Nice to see such consensus in government, eh?

Because the Liberal Party of Ontario is one seat short of a majority, this is quite an important election for the Liberals, who have discovered it was much easier to govern when they had a majority.

Governments can do whatever they want when they hold a majority of seats. Which is why it is important to the rest of us as well. After all, minority government is the closest we get to democracy in these parts.

My favorite, multipartisan, grass roots, electoral reform group, Fair Vote Canada, is hoping to change all that. Fair Vote WRC hosts events and seminars throughout the year so citizens can learn and discuss the issue of how to re-inject democracy into our political system.

Politics On The Patio Goes Underground

Last year during Democracy Week they held a “Politics on The Patio” event which happened to occur in the midst of the Ontario election. It was a relaxing change from the tightly managed election events, instead providing a forums so candidates could mix informally with the public and actually get an opportunity to meet one another.


Since this By-Election will be over by Democracy week, Fair Vote Waterloo Region held a “Meet The Candidate” event in the Huether Hotel’s basement Malt Room Museum. Almost all the candidates managed to attend, so it was an excellent opportunity to meet candidates in a relaxed setting — in this case, the Lion Brewery Museum and Dining Lounge, located in the depths of Waterloo’s Huether Hotel.

There was an excellent turn out of candidates.  Here they are in alphabetical order (by first name):

Allan Dettweiler, Ontario Libertarian Party
Catherine Fife, NDP
Elizabeth Rowley, Communist Party of Canada (Ontario)
Eric Davis, Liberal Party
Garnet Bruce, Independent
Stacey Danckert, Green Party

In these days of copyright maximalism, it is important to have accessible photographs of people in public life available to citizen journalists and bloggers. I’ve been taking every opportunity to photograph local politicians; all these blog photos are by laurelrusswurm and licensed with a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Although Conservative Candidate Tracy Weiller did not attend the Fair Vote “meet the Candidate” event, I can share this photograph of the candidate for tomorrow’s election.

Tracy Weiler, PC Party of Ontario

The byelections are being held tomorrow, Thursday September 6th, 2012.   I can’t vote in either riding, but I can hope the Ontarians who can don’t lock Ontario into an unfortunate majority.  Fingers crossed!

Either way, get out there and vote!

Oh yeah, this *is* Canada, after all … if any stranger ~ human or robot ~ should happen to call you up to tell you you need to go somehere different to cast your vote, please check it with the official information available at Elections Ontario.