Trudeau Government: Omnibus Rules

An excellent tool to keep track of whether or not the Trudeau Government is fulfilling the promises made in its election platform is the non-partisan collaborative citizen initiative website called the “TrudeauMeter.”   We are reminded

Trudeaumeter On the use of Omnibus Bills: Parliament:

“Change the House of Commons Standing Orders to end practice of using inappropriate omnibus bills to reduce scrutiny of legislative measures.”

So far there has been absolutely no movement to keep this promise.

Instead, what we are seeing here is that the Trudeau Government has chosen to use an inappropriate omnibus motion to change the House of Commons Standing Orders, reducing what little power opposition parties in phony majority governments (eg Mr. Trudeau’s Government, which he likes so much he’s disavowed his clear electoral reform promise to replace our unfair winner-take-all voting system).

“We’re filibustering to protect the right to filibuster. Who would have thought it would be this government, under this prime minister” to try to use its majority to make changes to the Standing Orders without all-party backing, he said. “It’s not your House… we have rights, too.”

NDP MP David Christopherson quoted in Hill Times: Opposition MPs declare ‘war’ over feds’ efforts to ram through sweeping changes to House rules, ‘we’re filibustering to protect the right to filibuster’

Follow intrepid reporter @Kady O’Mally’s Twitter Stream:

Christopherson also suggests the committee consider "the Cullen model," a la #ERRE, where no one party has a majority.

You can read her whole twitter stream on this own article complete article behind the iPolitics paywall by logging in if you are a memnber or by signing up for a free trial if you are not.

Rather than making Parliament more transparent, this is yet another attempt to make it more efficient for a party with a phony majority to undemocratically impose its will on our nation.   Promising one thing and not doing it is bad enough, doing the opposite of what you’ve promised is unacceptable.  In a democracy, that is.

Although CPAC is not covering this, @Kady is LiveTweeting, so Canadians can follow along and watch this unfold…


[CORRECTION NOTE: In the original version of this article I incorrectly described the “Omnibus Motion” as an “Omnibus Bill,” which I have corrected in this version. ~ LLR]

Congratulations @BardishKW

Since getting swept up in the electoral reform movement, I’ve had the opportunity to meet people from all the politcal parties in Waterloo Region.  In the days before the wider community hadn’t even heard about electoral reform, many of the people attending the Fair Vote Waterloo events where I was taking photographs were very involved in politics, some with political aspirations. That was when I first noticed a bright young woman named Bardish Chagger.  Although her face started become familiar because I kept seeing her at events like the Waterloo Robocalls Town Hall, it was only when she hosted a Liberal electoral reform debate that I learned she was a highly placed member of the local Liberal Riding Association.  As I got to know her a little, I discovered her mentor was Andrew Telegdi, an MP whose name I knew from a principled stand he took even before I moved back home.

When Bardish received the Waterloo Liberal nomination, I was happy for her.  Although I supported a different party during the 2015 election, and was very disappointed our exceptional candidate (and my friend) Richard Walsh wasn’t able to win the seat he and Bardish were contesting, I was pleased she had unseated the incumbent, and I was happy for her again.  My husband predicted she might get a cabinet position in spite of her youth, and when it happened, I was happy for her again, but now it felt kind of weird to actually know a cabinet minister.  But Bardish has brilliant people skills, and in spite of her elevation, she continued to be the approachable person she had always been, and when I meet her at events she always puts me at ease.

And now today I am happy for her elevation to the position of Government House Leader.  People say it is unprecedented for a “rookie” like Bardish to end up in such a job, but I’ve not doubt Bardish has the skills necessary to do the job.  Which is why I am offering the Honorable Bardish Chagger my most sincere congratulations.

Bardish Chagger at the Waterloo Climate Change Consultation
Bardish Chagger at the Waterloo Climate Change Consultation

 

Bill C-60 vs. CBC, Culture and Press Freedom

In Canada we can write or call our Member of Parliament (MP) to let them know when they are making a mistake.  I expect the legislation drafted as Bill C-60: Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1 — An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures has other problems threaded throughout its 128 pages but the mistake that concerns me is the bit about Crown Corporations in general, and in particular, the CBC.

To make it easy for Canadians, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting set up an online form letter. I’m one of the 71,393 Canadians (so far) to use their form letter to tell Prime Minister Stephen Harper and my own MP, Harold Albrecht, not to threaten the CBC’s autonomy by passing Bill C-60.

I haven’t heard back from the Prime Minister’s Office, but today I heard from my own MP, Harold Albrecht.

Dear Laurel,

The MP attending a High School Commencement ceremony
Harold Albrecht, MP

Thank you for contacting my office to express your concerns regarding Bill C-60 and the CBC. I appreciate your input on this matter.

Crown Corporations, such as the CBC, receive appropriations from Parliament, and our Government would like to see consistency in wage and benefits among all Crown Corporations and the civil service. This means that any individual doing the same type of work at the CBC should be receiving the same amount of money if they were doing the same job in any other Crown Corporation or Federal Department.

This is what Bill C-60 is seeking to secure. This mandate will make certain that we have the correct instruments in place to protect taxpayer dollars at the bargaining table if it is necessary. We have a responsibility and commitment to spend taxpayer dollars wisely and will work closely with Crown corporations to ensure this happens.

I would like to ensure you that the measures in Bill C-60 do not affect the funding or the independent operation of the CBC, or any other Crown Corporations.

I thank you again for contacting my office to express your concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact my office with any future concerns or inquiries.

Sincerely,

Harold Albrecht, MP
Kitchener-Conestoga

While I am sure Harold is sincere, his government has missed a couple of key points, so I decided to help matters along by writing him back to clear a few things up.

Harold Albrecht, MP
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Dear Harold,

Thank you for your response. While I do understand your position, it fails to take into account two very important considerations.

The first is Canadian CultureCBC simply is not the same as any other Crown Corporation because it is tasked with delivering Canadian culture to Canadians.

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board has no equivalent to Mr. Dressup.

Nor is a Camera Operator a Letter Carrier. A Letter Carrier follows a set of rules laid down from above, while a Camera Operator has achieved a level of technical expertise which is used in conjunction with a certain degree of creativity.

Although I have not myself worked at CBC, I have written television drama professionally, and I very much hope that there is no job like that at the Bank of Canada.

Canadian commitment to the CBC (and the NFB) has helped grow our cultural heritage. No one is suggesting that CBC is perfect, but direct government intervention to micromanage it is not the way to go.

The second crucial consideration is the other reason CBC was established, to ensure all Canadians have access to Canadian News — which does not simply mean a regional version of American News.

Public broadcasting is important to ensure Corporate agendas don’t trump the public good, which is why Canada is not the only nation in the world delivering public broadcasting to its citizens. Even the United States – the world leader in commercial broadcasting – has independent Public Broadcasting.

For the better part of the first two years I was writing the Stop Usage Based Billing blog, the only national mainstream media outlet in Canada that reported on our peculiarly Canadian UBB issue was CBC.  Unlike its self interested commercial competitors (which worked to keep the issue away from Canadians), CBC’s mandate is not just the the bottom line, but to keep Canadians informed.

While it is appropriate for the Federal Government to disburse funds to CBC, if government dictates how the money will be spent, journalistic independence will be lost and news will become propaganda.  If the news media is controlled by government, there can be no free press.

You must appreciate that while your government has a responsibility to spend taxpayer dollars wisely, this can be done without compromising press freedom. The Broadcasting Act gave CBC total autonomy in staffing decisions to ensure a free press, which is a necessary component of democracy.

Your assurance that the measures in Bill C-60 will not affect the funding or the independent operation of the CBC, or any other Crown Corporations, rings hollow in light of your government’s rejection of the Peggy Nash motion asking the finance committee to study the measure. If we are to have accountable democratic government, legislation requires sufficient scrutiny.

Laurel's Press Freedom Day avatar picture
on Press Freedom Day

Bill C-60 will do remarkable damage both to Canadian culture and Press Freedom.  For these reasons, as well as others echoed across the news media and the Internet, I ask you, as my duly elected Member of Parliament, to please vote “no” to Bill C-60.

Regards,
Laurel L. Russwurm

I didn’t go into the inappropriateness of Omnibus Bills in a democracy ~ this one contains so much disparate material that Peggy Nash wanted it split into six parts.

Since I’m not an expert on Crown Corporations, I limited myself to addressing the CBC issues.

Maybe I should have suggested it would be wise to consider why these Crown Corporations were established as independent entities in the first place.  The CBC is not a branch of the Civil Service, nor should it be.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Further Reading:
Bill C-60: An attack on CBC’s autonomy by Karl Nerenberg on Rabble

Will Bill C-60 influence Bank of Canada’s independence? Flaherty should explain by Kevin Carmichael, Globe and Mail

Canadian Press: Journalists urge fight against Bill C-60

Ottawa kicks the CBC, a wounded critter on a short leash by John Doyle, Globe and Mail

This Magazine: WTF Wednesday: CBC under attack…again

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.

Minister Fantino’s Inappropriate Use of Government Website

A Canadian flag flies at half mast against a blue skyGovernment of Canada websites have, for the most part, made extremely good use of the Internet. Canadians benefit from access to government information and legislation available online.

Until now.

It was quite shocking to find a vitriolic tirade Canadian International Development Agency | Dear NDP: CIDA Does Not Need Your Economic Advice published on a Government of Canada website by Canada’s Minister for International Cooperation, Julian Fantino.

[Note: The CIDA page was taken down, so the above link goes to the article in the Google cache ]

Although Canada currently has a government formed by the Conservative Party of Canada, the New Democratic Party has enough elected Members of Parliament to form the Official Opposition, which is also a part of the Canadian Government. Even if the NDP did not, as a duly registered political party representing any number of Canadian citizens, members of the NDP are certainly entitled to their own opinions and policies. Even when such opinions are published in the Huffington Post.

If Minister Fantino wished to respond to MP Helen Laverdière’s piece, he could have done so with his own submission to the Huffington Post. Or he could have submitted such a rebuttal elsewhere. Surely the Globe and Mail or the National Post would have been happy to oblige. Had he preferred to dispense with editorial oversight, he could have instead posted this diatribe under his own byline on his own blog. Or on any Conservative Party of Canada website or blog.

Minister Fantino’s ill advised decision to publish this partisan attack on a Federal Government website is clearly inappropriate.

Canadian Government websites are ultimately the property of Canadians, who come in many different shapes, sizes and ideologies. In order to properly serve our multifaceted, multicultural, multipartisan nation, Canadian Government websites must remain politically nonpartisan if they are to retain any credibility.

Minister Fantino has given the Canadian Government a black eye through this self serving overreach of authority. And Canada’s Minister for International Cooperation seems incapable of cooperating with his peers.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

P.S. I am pleased to report that Minister Fantino’s original article was taken down during the writing of this article. For anyone interested in reading it I’ve provided a link to Google’s cache of the document.