DEBill… bad4democracy

As a Canadian concerned with corporate subversion of democracy, I watched a good bit of the BBC democracy live coverage of the United Kingdom’s ill conceived Digital Economy Bill, known around the world by the acronym #DEBill, being made hastily into law.

Earlier in the year there were great howls of protest from Canadians as Prime Minister Stephen Harper prematurely prorogued parliament as a means of deflecting hard questions about Canadian involvement in torture overseas. Prorogation in Canada means that all the unfinished legislation is tossed out, and is usually done just before an election. Canadians were quite upset about this abuse of democracy, and a result has been the politicizing of a good number of previously apolitical citizens which in retrospect may well be regretted by those in power.

The UK also has prorogation, but before applying it their government can fast track laws in progress during a process called “wash-up” Traditionally in the past, only uncontroversial laws have been rushed through during wash-up, as the alternative is to have to start over from the very beginning at the next session of parliament. But this time, the Digital Economy Bill has been rushed through even through it is not only controversial but riddled with serious deficiencies which will result in sweeping changes to UK democracy.

twitter logo
I also spent a bit of time trying to follow #DEBill on twitter yesterday but there were so many people doing the same it was going so fast and freezing up, it seemed that #DEBill nearly killed twitter. Looking at it today there is still a great deal of activity there.

I think it is sickening that the UK MPs dismissed thousands of protests from constituents. There were thousands of signatories to the talktalk petition as well as some 20,000 individual letters of protest received by the government. According to MP Bradshaw, these communications were trumped by paid advertising (I believe by trade unions) which supposedly represented other constituents.

Only twenty thousand emails from the actual members of the trade unions supporting the DEBill should be able to counter balance twenty thousand constituent protests.

But I doubt that they could marshal that much support from the rank and file of the unions, particularly as many would understand the issues. The corporate media interests behind DEBill are in fact in a position to apply economic blackmail to many of these people as well. You know the kind of thing… support our business model, or don’t bother coming to work in the morning. This is why a great many of those opposed to this law daren’t say anything publicly against it. It is also why a key tool of democracy is a secret ballot.

Supposedly democratic representatives seem to do the same thing the world over. Our representatives seem to consider citizens less important than corporate special interests. Has democracy gone full circle? Are citizens are back to being voiceless serfs while corporations are the new nobility allowed by the government to rape and pillage at will? All because corporations give vast sums to political parties so they can advertise themselves into office? Are funds more valuable than votes?

It was glaringly obvious that the people pushing the Digital Economy Bill through do not actually understand what it is that they are legislating. This is clearly apparent in this letter from the Right Honorable Stephen Timms MP of the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. The Digital Economy Bill was pushed through by MPs like Timms who think that the “IP” in “IP Addess” means “Intellectual Property” when in fact it means “Internet Protocol”. I would have expected the UK government would have made an effort to understand the issues before pushing it through to appease corporate pressure.

Watson fights Digital Economy Bill 3rd reading

Worse is that they are taking the allegations made by corporate special interest groups on faith while completely ignoring the opinions of informed constituents.

There were a small minority of MPs who clearly understood what is happening, particularly Tom Watson, who not only worked hard to fight against the Digital Economy Bill, but amazingly conversed live with constituents via twitter during the course of the 3rd reading.

There was this lovely little Twitter initiative called What Digital Economy Bill? #debill When I first saw it yesterday it had less than 100 signatures.

The idea is to tweet:
“I choose not to recognise the UK’s Digital Economy Bill #whatdebill #debill http://whatdebill.org”

Or you can just use the #whatdebill hashtag, and you will be added to the list. Today when I looked just now it was up to:

5,392 Twitter users have declared that
they do not recognise the Digital Economy Bill (#debill)

All the UK political parties seem to have participated in allowing this travesty to become law.

Whether it is because there are computer illiterates in every party or the pressure from the corporate interests was so strong it is hard to say. The point is that computer use and internet access has long since ceased being a luxury; how governments treat the internet will have a huge impact on the country’s economic future.

A huge irony here is that within the confines of this same Digital Economy Bill the UK government is both endeavoring to put more and more government services online as a cost saving measure, while making it possible to summarily cut off citizens by the houseful (or university full) from the internet on the basis of unproven allegations.

Legalise Happy Birthday

I myself do not belong to a political party. I have on occasionally said nice things about political parties when they do good things (and not nice things when they don’t).  In general, I dislike the idea of political parties. I have this idea that the people I elect should act in my best interests, but when there is a political party they are often made to act in the party’s best interests ahead of those of their constituents. As a citizen in a supposed democracy I reserve the right to vote for the candidate I believe will do the most good.

That said, in light of the Digital Economy Bill travesty, were I a UK citizen I would be seriously considering joining the UK Pirate Party right about now. Contrary to what the Media companies and political parties in power want you to believe, the Pirate Parties that have been springing up in just about every country in the world do not advocate lawlessness, but rather thoughtful participatory copyright law reform. The PPUK had some excellent articles about DEBill deficiencies. Like the Canadian Pirate party, they seem to be shy about trying to raise donations, I expect largely for the same reason; they are mostly young enough to believe that being right should be enough. Unfortunately it costs money just to sign up a candidate to run for office, and according to their website’s front page they are short a whopping £4,500 to go into the General Election that has forced the DEBill’s high speed scrutiny-free passage.

Check them out. They’ve got some very good ideas. In a world dominated by the internet, wouldn’t it be terribly brilliant to actually have an MP or two who actually understand the technology.

Many UK citizens are clearly incensed, and, being computer literate internet aware citizens, they are using tools.

Tools like online articles:

The Pirate Party UK:
Pirate Party Slams Lack of Democracy in Digital Economy Bill

The Daily Record: Controversial new Digital Economy Bill could breach of human rights, warn law chiefs


Charles Arthur’s Guardian article:
Internet provider defies digital bill, about UK ISP Talk Talk who have been fighting hard against DEBill from the beginning.

Tools like blogs:

Who voted NO?, which is the one that started me writing a comment that mushroomed into this blog post

An Open Letter to Siôn Simon, Pete Wishart, David Lammy, Peter Luff, John Robertson, Stephen Timms

boingboing: Correcting the ignorant UK Members of Parliament who “debated” the Digital Economy Bill

Tools to show you who bothered to show up, how they voted:

Did My MP Show Up or Not?

The Public Whip

Debillitated

And even tools to allow you to watch the video of the DEBill proceeding and comment on it:

They Work For You.com

And of course all of these tools help expatriots and foreigners like myself by identifying the participants. It helps us understand as we follow along and watch the UK government undo centuries of British Jurisprudence.

The Register: Mandybill: It ain’t over yet says that it does in fact go back to the House of Lords for a final vote tonight so it is not actually law just yet. Maybe the UK won’t end up saddled with a next generation DMCA. Maybe the UK won’t be the opening act for ACTA after all. And even if the Lords “nod it through” as everyone seems to expect, Maybe DEBill can be an election issue, perhaps even revisited right after before too much damage is done.

The government seems to have been persuaded that these laws are necessary for economic necessity. In fact, by pushing the DEBill through in the face of so much opposition, it is entirely possible that the citizen backlash will be extraordinary, and in fact may well reroute the stream of UK entertainment income largely into the black market. Just from glancing at the twitter feed thousands of citizens who would not have dreamt of breaking the law yesterday are looking at doing so seriously today as a political protest.

It would not at all surprise me if people who have never so much as jaywalked start buying bootleg disks exclusively. And every time the law clamps down on kids who were not legally criminals yesterday, families who might have agreed in principal with the DEBill yesterday will certainly oppose it tomorrow.

UK Flag with superimposed words DIGITAL ECONOMY BILL

[p.s. A great many people are upset and looking for ways to fight against this bad law that has been so undemocratically foisted on them.
Read the comments anywhere. Torrent Freak for instance: Digital Economy Bill Passes, File-Sharing Ends Soon

The problem of course is that encryption will not not stop government intervention. In Canada the backbone Bell Canada ISP has been “throttling” (actually impeding via forged reset packets) specifically the internet traffic it believes to be p2p on the erroneous assumption that all p2p traffic is copyright infringement, which just is not so. They are also impeding any encrypted traffic on the assumption that it too is p2p. You are assumed guilty and you have to prive to them you are not engaging in p2p traffic. Another example of guilty until you prove yourself innocent.

I would really like this site:
What should we do in response to the Digital Economy Bill?,
BUT one can only vote, comment and possibly add their own ideas after providing identifiable information in order to sign up. Kind of defeats the purpose when you’re advising people to:

“Encrypt and obfuscate all data.”]

The House of Lords passed the Digital Economy Bill.

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They’re Baaaack… Canada and the Constitution

Harper in Parliament
Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Maple Leaf that says "Oh! Canada"Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s premature prorogation is over. What did it accomplish? Lots of stress free face time at the Olympics? The public has forgotten all about prorogation, government waste, complicity in war crimes… Have we? I know I haven’t.

Amir Attaran, a Law Professor at the University of Ottawa emphatically states “The first thing is that the government should hand over the documents.”

portait of Attaran
University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran. Photo: Tony Fouhse

Attaran says that “National Security’ is not a legally allowable reason to deny Parliament to access the requested documents.

Parliament is guaranteed access to uncensored documents under the Canadian Constitution.

The government’s ploy to call in a retired judge to make a ruling is a ploy, because being retired he has no authority. In fact, since the Government is paying the judge, he is an employee.

This has ceased to being about Afghan Detainees and whether they are tortured. What is at stake here is extremely high constitutional principle, about whether we are a democracy in which Parliament is supreme, or whether we are inching towards something that is slightly dangerously tyrannical. In which a sitting government can say “parliament, Tough Luck, your priviledges, your constitutional powers don’t matter.”

— Attaran http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDJ1TCXyRY8&feature=youtube_gdata

A question of war crimes

The power to call for persons, papers and records is absolute

It is very clear. The government must comply with the law.

The Rights to Institute Inquiries, to Require the Attendance of Witnesses and to Order the Production of Documents

The power to send for persons, papers and records has been delegated by the House of Commons to its committees in the Standing Orders. It is well established that Parliament has the right to order any and all documents to be laid before it which it believes are necessary for its information. … The power to call for persons, papers and records is absolute, but it is seldom exercised without consideration of the public interest. The House of Commons recognizes that it should not require the production of documents in all cases; considerations of public policy, including national security, foreign relations, and so forth, enter into the decision as to when it is appropriate to order the production of such documents.[327]

House of Commons Procedure and Practice – Second Edition, 2009

[note: the emphasis is mine.]

The Globe and Mail reports: Canadian spies interrogated Afghan prisoners, insiders reveal

Some people think that this is necessary because Canada is at war. Canadian lives are being saved. Does Canada have a reason to be at war besides the fact that President Bush told us to go to war? None that I’ve ever heard.

Canada is supposed to be a sovereign nation, and we should not BE at war without the clear backing of the populace.

Canadian Flag

Canadian soldiers are dying why?

Because they were stupid enough to join our military?

Not so long ago the Canadian military was respected around the world for peacekeeping. Not any more. Now, because of Canadian participation in an unjust war Canadian complicity in torture may be at issue. Is this how you want Canada to behave? I don’t.

Terrible and unconscionable as that is, what is worse is the fact that our government is placing itself above the law in not making the necessary documents available to parliament.

This is a clear and present danger to Canadian democracy.



If I ran the zoo…: Advertising II

Part II: Party Advertising

Inside Ignatieff's Head MacLeans Magazine cover
When an election is called and the candidates are running for office, their platform is of interest to viewers and readers.

The news media will report what they say.

That’s called “news”.

Political parties don’t need to buy advertising. Or at least they shouldn’t have to.

Stephen Harper

Why do the political parties expend so much energy fund raising to purchase advertising when they can get news coverage for free?

What’s the difference between media news coverage and advertising?

News coverage

is supposed to present the facts. News coverage might cover a press conference and select key statements made by a politician to put in the broadcast, or perhaps make a documentary about an issue, candidate, party or a campaign. They might include a panel discussion, a public consultation, or a political debate.

What is covered and the focus is decided by the news media editorial department, not the political party.

a spread of 9 February  newspapers from across Canada

Realistically, the news media is at least partially entertainment, and like anything else carries bias. The bias may be an official policy of the news outlet, or it might be handed down from on high, or it may have developed based on the bias of the people in editorial department, or even informed by the readership. When there is bias, and there is always bias (it’s only human) how the politician or issue is presented will be influenced by that bias to a degree. If the media takes a shine to a politician, they will be careful to present them in a good light, but if they dislike someone, they have the power to show only unflattering angles and emphasize verbal stumbling or contradictions.

The news media will report what they say. Good and bad.

Thus the politicians and/or the political party can not dictate the “spin”.

Advertising Coverage

graphic TV screen which says BUY NOWTo sell a product: in this case, the politician or the party, nothing works like advertising.

Facts are not necessary, the only goal is to make the politicians or the party look good.

Political Party advertising doesn’t have to actually say anything. In fact it is probably better if it doesn’t.

You want your candidate to look their best, and because you can take as long as you need to get it right, your candidate WILL look their best.  Photo Ops are good… baby kissing, cuddling pets, whatever works.

Then there are attack ads designed to make the opposing candidate or party look bad.  I think the assumption is that if the other guy looks bad, our guy looks good.  Unfortunately, these ads don’t come across as “whistle blowing”, they look much more like bullying.  I guess that might work for the bullies of the world, but I think this kind of advertising makes the party paying for it look bad.

I don’t need you to tell me what the other party has done wrong, I need to know what you will do right.

Advertising must be paid for. So yes, the parties need to find the money– this is what they are fund raising for.

Because they pay for the ads, they are the client.   Thus the politicians and/or the political party have control over the “spin”.   Advertisements only tell us what the party wants us to know.   So advertising is good for the party, but not necessarily good for the voter.

Is this really how we want to select our government?   Based on how good their advertising campaign is?

money and money

logo collage of some Canadian broadcasters

There are two different ways advertising money needs to be spent. The obvious part is the money that is spent on the creation of the advertising materials… the writers, producers, actors, camera men…

We don’t often think of the other place advertising money goes… to the media outlets. Space has to be purchased from magazines and newspapers to run print ads, while time slots must be bought from radio and television in order to broadcast commercials.

Political advertising represents an enormous revenue stream for media outlets. The income generated is what pays for the news media. Do you think maybe a TV network that receives a great deal of advertising revenue from a particular political party might be influenced in what news coverage that party receives? Is it unreasonable to think that large advertising budgets may lead to more favorable news coverage for the political parties?

Those are scary enough prospects to begin with, but the one that bothers me the most was the article I read in yesterday’s The Hill Times:

Right now the party is working on solidifying its policy positions, and boosting revenues from fundraising. The Liberals raised $9.6-million in 2009, which is vastly improved from 2008 when they brought in only $5.6-million. But while the Tories’ fundraising haul declined from $21-million in 2008, they were still light years ahead of the other parties, bringing in $18-million last year.

When Mr. Apps became president of the party last year he pledged to match the Conservatives in fundraising by June 30, 2011, and he said the party is on track to meeting that goal.

“In one year we’ve cut the gap in half. If I can cut it in half again this year, so the gap instead of being under $8-million it becomes $4-million, I think it’s very achievable to meet that goal in 2011,” he said.

But the Liberals are not there yet, and after four years in opposition, they have learned to fear the Conservative machine, said one insider.

The Hill Times: Liberals not ready to defeat Tories in spring

Political Cartoon shows Stephen Harper on the Canadian five dollar bill which says vote tory

The upshot certainly seems to be that The Liberal party is afraid to challenge the Conservative party and possibly trigger an election.

Not because they don’t think they are in the right. But for one reason only: they don’t believe they have enough money for advertising, and therefore believe that they cannot win.

Is it really true that our Canadian democracy boils down to the party with the biggest advertising budget will win?

More than anything that is a sign that political advertising needs to be stopped.

Maple Leaf that says "Oh! Canada"

If I ran the Zoo er Country…

the only advertising I would allow political parties to engage in would be lawn signs. If the party wanted to appear in the media the candidates would have to do something newsworthy.

Maybe if we got beyond sound bites we could find out what the different parties actually stand for. Instead of throwing all their creative juices into fooling us into voting for them, maybe they could really find out about the issues, and maybe even engage in public consultations and come out with workable platforms.

That’s what I would do if I ran the zoo country.



Write to your Member of Parliament and tell them what you think about premature prorogation or anything else! You can find your MP with this lovely link – it will also help you find out who your MP is if you don’t know. It’s time that Canadians started letting them know what we think about how they represent us.
Find your Member of Parliament

Write to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and tell him too!
Prime Minister/Premier Ministre Stephen Harper <pm@pm.gc.ca>

The government gives more weight to postal mail: you can mail your comments without a stamp!!:

The Right Hon. Stephen Joseph Harper, P.C., B.A., M.A.
1600 90th Avenue Southwest, suite A-203
Calgary, Alberta
T2V 5A8

Canada badly needs electoral reform. Take a peek at the Non-Partisan Fair Vote Canada site to get information some ideas of electoral reform. All Canadians need to join in these non-partisan discussions.

Canadian Electoral Reform #1: If I ran the zoo… er country

Dr. Seuss' Zoo: A Nerd
A Nerd from Dr. Seuss’ “If I Ran The Zoo”

With all the fuss about prorogation, like everyone else I’ve been thinking about Canada’s electoral system. Like most Canadians, I’ve known that there are problems with how our government works for a good long while. But, again, like most people, I’ve been busy. So I have not been paying as close attention as I should have been to what’s been happening on the political front.

I’m not a political scientist or a law professor. I’m just a citizen. A mom. Since a long time favorite* at my house is Dr. Seuss’ If I ran the Zoo I thought I’d look at Canadian politics and think about what >I< would do differently

If I ran the Zoo er Country…

Since I believe Canada is in serious need of electoral reform, this is just part one of this series. This would be my personal contribution to the CAPP Days of Action initiative.

Government Hierarchy

We have different levels of government in Canada. The highest level is the Federal Government, which plays a part in the lives of all Canadians. This level of government is the highest.

You are a Canadian if you are born here, or if you immigrate and become a citizen. Canadians don’t have to live in Canada to be citizens. That’s why there were No-prorogation protests held in other parts of the world on January 23rd.

The next level down in the hierarchy: Provincial/Territorial Government: it all boils down to where you live. Canadians moving to a different part of the country, or a different country lose their voice in this level of government.
Canadian FlagThe lowest level of government was traditionally the municipalities. Unfortunately, in many places we’ve had an extra level of government inflicted on us by the Province, so we have the addition of a regional level of government. They always “sell” this extra layer of government as a way to save money through being able to provide a wider range of services at a lower cost. In reality I don’t thing the addition of any regional government has ever saved Canadian taxpayers a nickel.

No Party Rule

At the Federal and Provincial levels of government we have political parties. Everywhere except in the

Northwest Territories and Nunavut

Northwest Territories FlagUnlike provincial governments and the Yukon, the government of the Northwest Territories does not have political parties (except during the dark days between 1898 and 1905). The Northwest Territories governs through a consensus government called the Legislative Assembly. This group is composed of one member elected from each of the constituencies, and after election, the new parliament elects a premier and speaker by secret ballot.

Nunavut FlagThe members of the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut are also elected individually; there are no parties and the legislature is consensus-based. The head of Nunavut’s government is a premier, who is elected by and from the the elected members of the legislative assembly.

What an amazing idea! Why don’t we adopt this system for the country?
Maple Leaf that says "Oh! Canada"
Imagine: the people we elect to represent us would actually be representing us. Just think: we’d never have the situation where the leader of the party fails to get elected so they are run again in a “safe” riding. And you know, not having parties would at the very least curb patronage. If we didn’t have parties, our representatives couldn’t be ordered by their party leader to vote for something against our interests. They would have to work together or nothing would get done.

That’s what I would do if I ran the zoo country.



* “If I Ran the Zoo”, by Dr. Seuss was the first recorded instance of the word “nerd.”



Write to your Member of Parliament and tell them what you think about premature prorogation. You can find your MP with this lovely link – it will also help you find out who your MP is if you don’t know. It’s time that Canadians started letting them know what we think about how they represent us.
Find your Member of Parliament

Write to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and tell him too!
Prime Minister/Premier Ministre Stephen Harper <pm@pm.gc.ca>

You can also send him postal mail without a stamp!! Canada Post delivers mail to and from the Canadian government representatives gratis:

The Right Hon. Stephen Joseph Harper, P.C., B.A., M.A.
1600 90th Avenue Southwest, suite A-203
Calgary, Alberta
T2V 5A8

The government gives more credence to postal mail than email. Maybe because it’s more expensive.

Canada badly needs electoral reform. Take a peek at the Non-Partisan Fair Vote Canada site to get information some ideas of electoral reform. All Canadians need to join in these non-partisan discussions.

P.S. You can also sign the online petition “Declaration of Voters Rights

dogs 4 democracy

Looking down past a Canada ball cap we see a collie dog
Mape Leaf that says "Oh! Canada"Dogs are great.

When a dog joins our family they want only what is best for us.
When we accept them into our pack, they will do whatever they can to make us happy. When we go to Canada Day celebrations, our dog is always happy to come along.

After all, we will be there, which translates as heaven on earth to our dogs. Dogs might get first dibs on hot dogs or ice cream scoops that fall in range, but that’s just fringe benefits. They are there for us.

All the dogs in the following pictures came out with their families to the Waterloo or Guelph No ProRogue rallies on January 23rd, 2003.

A Husky dog lays patiently on the concrete among during the rally.

Our dogs can be patient.

Two Rottweilers enjoy the rally

They love all the sights and smells.

A dog at the Waterloo NoProrogue Rally

But it isn’t just on nice days that our furry friends will help us celebrate democracy.

A dog is curled up beside the ice rink at the Waterloo rally.

Our dogs will come out with us in all weather to march for democracy.

A little white fluffy dog wears a coat to keep warm.

Even the little dogs.

This dog is ready to march: dogs 4 democracy

Because our dogs want only what is best for us.

A fluffy brown dog is enjoying the outing with the crowd of protesters.

Maybe our government could learn something from our dogs.

Canadian Flag

Write to your Member of Parliament and tell them what you think about premature prorogation. You can find your MP with this lovely link – it will also help you find out who your MP is if you don’t know. It’s time that Canadians started letting them know what we think about how they represent us.
Find your Member of Parliament

Write to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and tell him too!
Prime Minister/Premier Ministre Stephen Harper <pm@pm.gc.ca>

You can also send him postal mail without a stamp!! Canada Post delivers mail to and from the Canadian government representatives gratis:

The Right Hon. Stephen Joseph Harper, P.C., B.A., M.A.
1600 90th Avenue Southwest, suite A-203
Calgary, Alberta
T2V 5A8

The government gives more credence to postal mail than email.   Maybe because it’s more expensive.

Canada badly needs electoral reform. Take a peek at the Non-Partisan Fair Vote Canada site to get information some ideas of electoral reform. All Canadians need to join in these non-partisan discussions.

P.S. You can also sign the online petition “Declaration of Voters Rights

Premature Prorogation is just one of the signs of Electoral Dysfunction.

Canadian Constitutional Law

1997

Mape Leaf that says "Oh! Canada"My first exposure to legislative “regulations” was when I tried reading the Provincial Government’s proposed Bill 160 back in 1997.   Although I’m reasonably well educated and usually able to grasp the big picture, when reading through this proposed education legislation more than once I still couldn’t figure it out. At first I worried that my critical thinking had been impaired by motherhood. As it turned out, that was not the problem. The problem was that Bill 160 wasn’t complete, it was a framework.

Regulations are the details that get filled in later after the law has been passed. Regulations are decided behind closed doors by the cabinet. Bill 160 even specified that many of its regulations could be retroactive. As a citizen, this makes me nervous.

The point of our lawmaking procedure is to allow for laws to be made democratically in the light of day by elected representatives.
I can understand how it started… a government wanted to put through a law quickly, but they were missing a detail or two so they left a regulatory blank to be filled in later. But legislation made up of “regulations to be named later” bypasses the system of parliamentary legislation which is how our laws are supposed to be made. This is like signing a contract that hasn’t been filled in.

2010

Prime Minister Stephen Harper
One result of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s misuse of prorogation means that more than half of the legislation in the works has been killed.

From my perspective, it is rather a good thing that some of the laws were derailed. As it turns out, it is a very good thing that Bill C-6 Canada Consumer Product Safety Act was not actually passed.

Marketed under the Healthy Canadians Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan umbrella, this law has not yet passed. This law is being sold as “protecting you and your family'”.

Constitutional lawyer Shawn Buckley explains about legislative regulations at the federal level:

Regulations don’t have to go through parliament. There doesn’t have to be a vote. If you want to pass a regulation and you’re the government, you just publish it in the Canada Gazette Twice, and it becomes the law.
–Shawn Buckley YouTube Video: Part 1 Restricting Our Freedoms

Through a discussion board on the Facebook Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament CAPP site I first learned about Bill C-6. I was directed to National Health Products Protection Organization (NHPPA)‘s Constitutional lawyer Shawn Buckley, who speaks on the two YouTube videos I’ve included in this page.

Although his focus is National Health Products Protection he very clearly lays out a few very frightening things that are happening in this legislation. Mr. Buckley’s concern with the regulations within this proposed law because he believes once the law is passed the regulatory elements will be employed detrimentally.


PART 1 Restricting Our Freedoms – Shawn Buckley about Bill C-6

Bill C-6 abolishes the Law of Trespass

Our right to privacy, which Canadians enjoyed on our own land, or in our own homes, is abolished under this law. Established in British Common Law, Canada’s Law of Trespass is older than confederation. The legal protection it afforded citizens was that any invasion of our privacy by citizens or the state had remedies in law. This law is why it is necessary for law enforcement to have a search warrant before invading citizen’s homes. Currently all levels of Canadian law enforcement employ the standards laid out in the Canadian Criminal Code: there needs to be a substantial likelihood of evidence of a crime.

Shawn Buckley says that Bill C-6 will allow a Justice to grant a search warrant to a Health Canada Inspector to any place that is “likely to find something regulated by the act”. Being skeptical, I went and looked it up on the government’s own website:

Authority to enter place

20. (1) Subject to subsection 21(1), an inspector may, for the purpose of verifying compliance or preventing non-compliance with this Act or the regulations, at any reasonable time enter a place, including a conveyance, in which they have reasonable grounds to believe that a consumer product is manufactured, imported, packaged, stored, advertised, sold, labelled, tested or transported, or a document relating to the administration of this Act or the regulations is located.
Bill C-6 – As Passed by the House of Commons Version

Exerpting the scary bit: “reasonable grounds to believe that a consumer product is … stored.”

My house has stored consumer products in it.   Every house does.   He’s right.

This law means that no one’s home is safe.

Of course, law enforcement isn’t going to be breaking down doors willy nilly… would they?

The Rule of Law

Canadian Flag
The Rule of Law is one of my favorites. Currently, the state needs to go through the court before it can deprive us of our liberty or our property. The court only grants the state the right to deprive us of these things if there is the provision of a crime or a legal judgement.

Bill C-6 allows a Health Canada Inspector to seize your property without going to court for a warrant.

Under current law, anything that is seized under a warrant must be (a) reported to the court immediately, and (b) the enforcement agent must apply to the court to keep it. The court may decide the seizure was improper and order it’s return.

Bill C-6 allows property seizure without having to bother with the court.

Worse, it allows the person whose property was seized can be billed for storage of their seized property. Or the Inspector can decide to destroy the property.

Keeping it cozy, the ministry that charges you keeps the goods they have seized.

So, in the name of “safety”, a warrant may be obtained without evidence, goods may be seized without a warrant, and then kept, disposed of or destroyed without a court order.


PART 2 Restricting Our Freedoms – Shawn Buckley about Bill C-6

I know that I am not Shawn Buckley’s intended audience because my only connection with the National Health Products Protection Organization would be as a consumer.   I’m just a citizen.   There are some really good laws in place currently protecting consumers.

If the inspectors are having trouble doing their job within Canada’s existing laws, perhaps the real problem is that there are not enough inspectors to be able to do the job properly. Rectifying that problem would be beneficial to consumers.

As a reader and writer I can see all too clearly the realms of abuse that laws like this will open up. And once a law like this passes, it will be that much easier to pass others as bad or worse.

There are really good reasons to afford citizens protection from the state. That’s why our legal system evolved the way it has… to ensure that the powerful state does not wantonly abuse its citizens. Citizens must be considered innocent until proven guilty. That’s important.

This law will strip centuries old legal protections from me and my family. That’s not good for us… that’s bad.

Prorogation killed this law. We’re safe from it now.

Well, no.

Bill C-6 was originally Bill C-52. It didn’t get passed and it has come back. A hair’s breath from being a law. So when parliament reconvenes it will no doubt be back. And this time, it will most likely be pushed through on a fast track.

We can get some good out of this prorogation if we can work to stop further erosion of our civil rights. Lets make democracy work for us.

Canadian House of Commons

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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