National Day of Action to Stop Bill C-51 ~ March 14th, 2015

It's Time To STOP BILL C-51

There have been many complaints against legislation the Harper Government has pushed through since gaining it’s “majority*” in the House of Commons. Our antiquated inequitable electoral system allows any government that achieves a “majority” to do pretty much whatever it likes.

But Bill C-51 is a game changer.

Law Professors Craig Forcese and Kent Roach (at the University of Ottawa and the University of Toronto respectively) have been raising the alarm in articles like“Bill C-51: the Good, the Bad . . . and the Truly Ugly” which outline many of the very disturbing elements of Bill C-51.  They’ve created a website where they have shared their findings about Bill C-51 in detail http://www.antiterrorlaw.ca/

Possibly the single most disturbing element for me is something Mr. Forcese says in one of his information videos:

…the whole thing is covert.

We just have never seen anything like this in Canada before. Personally I would expect judges to consider all this unconstitutional and they could never let CSIS breach the constitution. But you and I may never know because, as I’ve said, this legal question would likely be decided as part of secret proceedings.

— Craig Forcese, University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law

Fast Tracked

Although Bill C-51 makes sweeping changes to Canadian law (and life) the Harper Government is pushing this bill through at break neck speed.  Instead of thoroughly investigating every element carefully, only 9 witnesses will be allowed to speak at the hearings, which are scheduled to be wrapped up by March 31, 2015.

The thing is, a majority government can pass any law it wants to pass.  So why not give such a law a proper hearing, why not examine it to ensure there will be no unexpected consequences.  After all, shouldn’t every law within a democratic nation receive proper scrutiny?

On Saturday (that’s March 14, 2015) Canadians across the country will to join a scheduled National Day of Action to protest Bill C-51.

Many organisations and a whole lot of people from Privacy Commissioners to former Prime Ministers have spoken out against Bill C-51 because they believe its provisions should be of concern to all Canadians.  If Bill C-51 becomes law, it will clearly allow for the violation of our Charter Rights, destroy personal privacy and facilitate spying on innocent Canadians while it creates a new secret police force with little oversight or accountability.

Canadians need to tell our MPs how we feel about this.

You can write a letter and/or sign Leadnow’s Petition:

REJECT FEAR. STOP STEPHEN HARPER’S “SECRET POLICE” BILL
Tell them that attacks on civil liberties including the sweeping expansion of spy powers, criminalization of speech, and preventative arrest for those who have committed no crime are not acceptable.

Find out where a local Stop Bill C-51 rally may be taking place on Facebook or Twitter, or visit LeadNow’s http://we.leadnow.ca/stopc51 webpage where they are trying to co-ordinate the whole thing. If there isn’t one scheduled in your neighbourhood, you can start your own, by setting up a Facebook Event and inviting your friends or by announcing it on Twitter.

In my own Waterloo Region we have three groups (so far) coming together to stand up for Canadian civil rights.

Waterloo Region National Day of Action Bill C-51 Events

11:00AM Waterloo Walk against Bill C-51

I love the idea of a protest march where the marchers pass out information.  The march will begin at the University of Waterloo, in the Davis Centre Quad

(the big ‘green’ space between Davis Centre, Mathematics/Computer and Chemisty buildings). Then we’ll walk down University Avenue, past Laurier, down King Street until Victoria Park and City Hall. There will already be a rally in progress at city hall, so if you want to stay at the rally you can meet up there and talk to some cool people. Otherwise, you can bus back or something.

NOON Kitchener-Waterloo Day of Action Against Bill C-51STOP

has merged with Julian Ichim’s Info Picket against Bill C 51 to create a single event at Kitchener City Hall.

Folks are welcome to meet up at Kitchener City Hall on March 14th at 12pm, 200 King St W. Federal Green party candidate Richard Walsh will be giving a short speech.

I have been told this is not a partisan event; Richard Walsh won’t be the only Federal Candidate for the 2015 Election slated to speak. I would certainly like to hear from candidates from all major Parties in Waterloo Region and sitting MPs on this very important subject.a

The weather is supposed to be lousy, but if they pass Bill C-51 this may be the last time anyone can attend a protest rally without risking 5 years in jail.

Stop Bill C-51


*”Majority” government in Canada does not mean a majority (which would be 50+%) it is a “plurality” — the winner only needs to get more votes than any other, not a majority of votes. Which means that a government that wins a majority of the seats in Parliament with only 39% of the vote (like Mr. Harper has) actually gains 100% of the power, which is effectively a dictatorship, not democracy.

Proportional Representation Petitions

MP Stephen WoodworthAnita Payne pointed out that Stephen Woodworth was not the first Conservative MP to present the Fair Vote Petition to Parliament.

On November 18th, 2013 Conservative MP Scott Reid presented a Fair Vote Proportional Representation Petition from his own Ontario riding of Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox & Addington. It would certainly have been easy to miss as he merely described it as “identical to the petition just presented a moment ago by my colleague from St. Paul’s.”  I’ve taken the liberty of reproducing the Hansard record of Liberal Member of Parliament Carolyn Bennett’s Petition Presentation (referenced by Mr. Reid) here:

Hon. Carolyn Bennett
The Honorable Carolyn Bennett

Mr. Speaker, I wish to present a petition on fair electoral representation. The petition is to ensure that Canadians have a fair electoral system. The petitioners are saying that it is completely unfair when the number of MPs that party supporters elect does not reflect the number of voters who cast ballots for that party.

The petitioners pointed out to me in a number of town hall meetings at Christie Gardens that it seems exceptionally unfair that many more people voted against the governing party, which is ruling with a majority.

As fair voting systems better reflect the will of voters and let them vote for the candidate and party they prefer and give each community fair and accountable representation, the petitioners are calling upon the House of Commons to immediately undertake public consultations across Canada to amend the Canada Elections Act to ensure that voters can cast an equal and effective vote to be fairly represented in Parliament.

I am particularly honoured to present this particular petition in that it is signed by one of the real heroes of citizen engagement, my dear friend Ursula Franklin.

— The Honorable Carolyn Bennett, presenting the Fair Vote Petition from St. Paul’s

I welcome any further information about other Proportional Representation petitions presented to parliament.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

FVC Waterloo meets MP Stephen Woodworth

Stephen Woodworth's Kitchener Centre Constituency Office
Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth’s Kitchener Centre constituency office.

Bob Jonkman and Sharon Sommerville
Fair Vote Waterloo’s former Co-Chair Bob Jonkman with current FVC WRC Co-Chair Sharon Sommerville

David, Bob and Sharon look at the map

Getting a sneak peak at Waterloo Region’s new electoral riding.

The FVC WRC Delegation
The Delegation:  David Lubell, Shannon Adshade, Sharon Sommerville and Bob Jonkman
present MP Stephen Woodworth with a petition asking for electoral reform.

MP Stephen Woodworth

Mr. Woodworth accepts the Fair Vote Electoral Reform Petition which he will present to Parliament.

The MP holds the petition

MP Stephen Woodworth and FV WRC co-chair Shannon Adshade

MP Stephen Woodworth and FVC WRC Co-Chair Shannon Adshade.

Stephen Woodworth discusses electoral reform with the delegation.

MP Stephen Woodworth is the current Conservative Member of Parliament
for Kitchener Centre in Ontario.

Discussing political reformA lively discussion: MP Stephen Woodworth discusses parliamentary reform with the FVC delegation,
Shannon Adshade, Bob Jonkman, David Lubell and Sharon Sommerville.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

All photographs by Laurel L. Russwurm are released under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) License

Nuclear Energy Debate ~ Ontario Election 2011

Over the heads of the audience; Satnik stands front and center, flanked by Ron Oberth seated at left and moderator Bob Jonkman standing at right.

I was fortunate to be able to attend the “The Role of Nuclear Power in Ontario’s Clean Energy Future: A Debate” put on by Fair Vote WRC and CAPP (Canadians Advocating Political Participation).

Since it was part of Fair Vote Canada‘s first annual Democracy Week, I planned to take still photos both for my blog and for my Fair Vote WRC and CAPP friends. But it was only while sitting in the front row listening to introductions that I spontaneously decided to record the debate.

looking at the back couple of rows of audience; the Fair Vote table on display behind

I’m still learning Free-Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) so I didn’t know if I’d be able to edit video at all. If I’d known it would be important to share the video, I wouldn’t have snapped noisy photos during the debate. But it was only listening to the information and arguments of the debate that I realized just how important the issue is in the here and now.

photographed over the audience from the back of the room
The Role of Nuclear Power in Ontario's Clean Energy Future: A Debate

Right now, Ontario is at a crossroads. If we proceed as we have been, Ontario will soon decommission some existing nuclear reactors and will then have to make substantial new investments.  Part of the urgency to decide how to proceed now is that it takes a lot of lead time – decade or so – to build new reactors. The question is, is it necessary?

That nuclear energy is a necessary component to meet Ontario's engery needs.

Mr. Oberth answers questions seated at the table in the question period following the debate
Ron Oberth, nuclear energy expert

The Role of Nuclear Power in Ontario’s Clean Energy Future: A Debate

Ron Oberth of The Organization of CANDU Industries (OCI) gave an excellent presentation, explaining both the history and the current system. Currently Ontario’s energy generation revolves around the nuclear power “baseload.” This is the foundation of the energy grid which powers Ontario.

In fact, our system is so efficient that more than once Ontario has had to pay neighbors to take surplus power off our hands. You can’t instantly turn off a nuclear reactor, and too much unused energy could burn out part of the grid.

Kind of makes you wonder why consumers need smart meters.

Derek Satnik, renewable energy expert at Mindscape Innovations, gave a thorough run down of alternative energy options. The most surprising thing was that Ontario is at a point where it is possible to wean our province off nuclear energy through a transition into the emerging alternative energy industries.

Mr. Satnick answers questions seated at the table in the question period following the debate
Derek Satnik, renewable energy expert

Although in its infancy, wind power provides about 1% of the power to the grid. Solar power is another incremental player. Derek Satnik explained the potential: a federation of renewable micro-power generation facilities could generate a more robust baseload by virtue of flexibility.

But new clean energy resources can’t be added to the grid without reducing some resources. And right now, we have safe and clean energy sources that the government won’t use, because there isn’t room for it on the grid. Right now we could replace nuclear power with green renewable energy.

Three wing Windmill head against a baby blue sky.

I’m sure we have careful and capable people watching over our nuclear power plants. Even so, Ontario is very lucky not to have had a 3 Mile Island.
Or a Chernobyl.
Or a Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
Because Nuclear Power is not 100% safe.
Accidents happen.
And thirty years later, we still have no way of making nuclear waste safe; our only disposal method is to bury it.

Nor is nuclear power cheap. We are still paying off nuclear facilities that are no longer in use. Instead of signing on the bottom line to build more expensive nuclear facilities, Ontario could make the transition to less expensive safe alternative energy, and simply phase out our use of nuclear power.

This is the most important issue in this election.

windmills atop the roof of the mall

Watch the debate for yourself:

My 32 minute video isn’t perfect. But you should see it now. Before we elect a new government.

You can watch it on YouTube:

Or download the high resolution version from the Community Video section of Archive.org.

More photos from the debate are available here.

Penelope: “You can’t really vote for a kid, but you can vote for her future.”

It seems Fair Vote and CAPP aren’t the only folks who think that Ontario’s Clean Energy Future ought to be an issue during this electoral campaign. Eight year old Penelope has joined the provincial candidates on the campaign trail, criss crossing the province and asking candidates questions about the environment. Penelope4ontario.ca is leading a campaign to direct voter attention to environmental issues. The idea is that we need to think about the environment we will bequeath to our children when we cast our votes.

Besides being a little girl, Penelope is, of course, an actress, fronting the campaign put on by environmental consortium Environmental Defence. Still, she knows her stuff. Kitchener-Center NDP MPP Candidate Cameron Dearlove had a good chat with young Penelope. Of course, I’m sure that it helps that the environment is one of the NDP platform’s strengths.

The best thing on Penelope’s web page was the Environmental Report Card which compares all the party platforms on environmental issues.

Environment Forum

looking over the audience to the head table where Green Candidate Mark Vercouteren has the mic

head and shoulders shot of candidate with microphone
Mark Vercouteren, #kitcen GPO

Last week Waterloo Region played host to a cross-riding Environmental Forum in at the Rockway Mennonite Church in downtown Kitchener. This forum allowed candidates from various parties to discuss their party’s environment platform.

head and shoulders shot of candidate with microphone
Eric Davis, #kitwat OLP

Kitchner-Centre Green Party Candidate Mark Vercouteren, Kitchener-Waterloo Liberal Party Candidate Eric Davis and Kitchener-Centre NDP Candidate Cameron Dearlove, all had an opportunity to explain their position to local voters and to answer questions following the debate.

head and shoulders shot of candidate with microphone
Cam Dearlove, #kitcen ONDP

Unfortunately, there was no representative from the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party at this Environmental Forum. Did the party decline to attend because they have no environment platform to speak of? I noticed the OPCP was the only party that declined to participate in the Penelope4ontario.ca poll as well. This makes me a bit nervous.

I think it is disturbing that the Ontario Conservatives are so cavalier about Ontario’s energy future. Even if the Progressive Conservative Party is convinced nuclear power is both safe and the best source for Ontario energy, can we afford to cavalierly forge ahead when nuclear power is also the most terribly expensive option? Particularly since it’s getting more so?

Groups of people chatting.

Still, it is especially difficult to take a hard line about nuclear costs, because we can’t afford to be cutting corners when a nuclear mistake cand render large parts of our land uninhabitable. I always thought one of the most important Conservative party cornerstones was fiscal responsibilty.

More problematic is Kitchener- Centre candidate Dave MacDonald, the local TV weather man who has achieved notoriety during this election campaign for expressing disbelief in climate change.

The twin issues of energy and environment are crucial to Ontario’s continued health and prosperity. Candidates who can’t find the time to carefully consider these issues are not candidates I want to see making these decisions for our province. Our future is at stake.

Ontario’s electoral system is every bit as broken as the Federal system. But the very fact that ever vote is not equal makes it even more important to cast our votes, and just as important, to cast them for the candidate we want to elect.

Flying againsy a blue sky with a few whisps of coud.

Thursday, October 6 is the Ontario Election.

#VoteON



Note:
Additional photos from the Environmental Forum are available here.