Thursday, March 31, 2011

Canada watches its democracy erode

I don't normally get involved in talking about or writing about politics, but truly, Harper really gets my knickers in a twist. I admit, I am part of the voting problem; I stopped voting ten years ago. Why? Because in 1997 when I was legally allowed to vote for the first time, I was so excited to participate in democracy, I celebrated, and felt like I was contributing some good to society. But then by the time I was in my early twenties, I became disillusioned, jaded. I didn't see that Canadian democracy was working for me as a citzien, I didn't feel like it was making a difference, and I didn't like the choices I had to choose from for voting.

QUOTE from "The Australian" newspaper.
Canada watches its democracy erode

ON Friday, the minority Stephen Harper government fell on a confidence motion by a 156-145 vote. Speaking to the motion, Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff attacked the government for disrespecting Canadian democracy and treating parliament with contempt.

The myth of Canada being dull is captured in the apocryphal story that in an international competition for the most boring news headline of the year, the winning entry was "Yet another worthy Canadian initiative".
Edmund Burke noted that all that was necessary for evil to triumph was for good men to do nothing. Canadians are certainly good and worthy folks, but they suffer an excess of civil obedience, politeness and lack of civic rage that could be harnessed to combat political atrophy. At a time when Arabs risk life and limb for political freedoms, Canadians seem largely apathetic about the erosion of their democracy.
The centralisation of power in the hands of the prime minister and political staffers - with the resulting diminution of the role and status of cabinet, parliaments and parliamentarians - is common to Anglo-Saxon democracies in Australia, Britain, Canada and the US, but the extent to which constitutional conventions, parliamentary etiquette and civil institutions of good governance have been worn away in Canada is cause for concern.

A minister told parliament she did not know who had altered a document that cut funding to a foreign aid group. Later, she admitted to ordering the changes, but did not know who had carried out the order. Lying to parliament, a cardinal sin of Westminster-style democracy, has become a political tactic.
Following rulings by Speaker Peter Milliken, for the first time in Canadian history, the government and a minister have been found to be in contempt of parliament for withholding information and misleading the house.

The Integrity Commissioner was so inept that she failed to uphold a single one of more than 200 whistle-blowing complaints. Forced out of office by the ensuing public outcry, she was awarded a $C500,000 severance package on condition that neither she nor the government talk about it. That is, a public servant paid by the taxpayer was financially gagged by yet more taxpayer money to stop taxpayers finding out what was going on.

When a foreign service officer blew the whistle on the Canadian military handing over detainees to Afghan security forces, in likely violation of international humanitarian law, the government tried to destroy him and refused to give documents to a parliamentary inquiry. The Speaker reminded the government parliament controlled cabinet, not the other way round.

After the last elections, when the opposition parties were close to agreement on a coalition majority government, rather than face the house in a vote of confidence, Harper talked the governor-general into shuttering parliament for a month until he shored up his own support.

When the time came to choose a new governor-general, Harper opted for someone who had carefully drawn up terms of an inquiry commission to exclude the potentially most damaging aspects of a scandal involving a former conservative prime minister.

Four conservatives have been charged with exceeding campaign spending limits in the 2006 election that put Harper into power. A minister used public office and material to pursue party-political goals of courting ethnic vote banks for the conservatives.

Having come into office on campaign promises of greater transparency and accountability, Harper has silenced civil servants and diplomats, cynically published guidelines on how to disrupt hostile parliamentary committees, and suppressed research that contradicts ideologically-driven policy, for example data that show crime rates to be falling.

Judges who rule against the pet causes of the government's ideological base are not immune to attacks from cabinet ministers.

Civil society groups that criticise any government policy or ideology risk loss of funding and hostile takeovers by boards stacked with pro-government ciphers.

Little wonder Globe and Mail columnist Lawrence Martin describes the government's "arc of duplicity" as "remarkable to behold". What remains unclear is whether this adds up to an indictment of Canadians' indifference to democratic rights being curtailed or of the opposition parties, which have failed to harness the silent majority's outrage.

As Canadians head for the polls in early May, it remains to be seen whether Liberal Party charges of the Harper government being obsessed with secrecy, control, spin and attack ads will resonate with voters. Until then, Oh Canada, we cry our hearts for thee.

Author: Ramesh Thakur is professor of political science at the University of Waterloo and adjunct professor, Institute of Governance, Ethics and Law, Griffith University

Excuse my oncoming rant;
I feel like it's a puppetshow of greedy, power hungry idiots who I wouldn't trust as far as I can throw them. So why would I trust any of these morons to actually do a good job and actually run Canada in a considerate, wise and efficient way? Do any of these idiots really think about the bigger picture and think "how can I acheive the greatest good of all?". I think the only bigger picture they think about is their own bigger picture.

I worked for the government for a year when I was 19 as an intern and had a window into the bullshit that goes on internally. The higher up the totem pole the person is, the less in touch with reality they are and the more power they have to make desisions that affect everyone. The people working in the field, who in the greater scheme of things are on the bottom of the totem pole, they are the one's who have practical ideas and advice about how things could be done better and all of their wisdom falls on deaf ears.

So this is why I stopped voting, I didn't like my choices and I didn't believe in the idea of "choosing the lesser evil", that is until Harper stepped in. Harper I want to see out of power, his most recent antics really get my knickers in a twist and if I ever meet that man in person, I'll be sure to give him a piece of my mind. Harper makes me realize the wisdom in my grandfather's advice, to participate and choose the lesser of the evils.

Maybe I'll vote for the first time in ten years; please, the higher powers that be, kick this man out of power and replace him with a good man, or better yet, a wise women. Let's have a miracle! Maybe there would actually be one genuinely good person who really thinks about the greater good, who would not have gotten squelched by the opposition but in fact somehow side-steps attacks and makes it into power and could actually make the world a better place.

Sigh.... oh idealism....

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